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Artist Interviews
Hanging with Brian Culbertson, at the Corner of Showmanship and Brilliant Artistry!

Brian Culbertson resides at the corner of showmanship and brilliant artistry. Rarely are those two skills evident in one performer and no one does it better than BC. Top that off with a burning desire to create amazing events and shows for guests and a willingness to engage his fans at all time and you have the consummate performer and entertainer.

As a producer of music events, we see all types of presentations. Some are simple. They present the music and that is the star. Some are flashy and, oh, by the way, there is music. Brian’s shows provide the wonder and magic of entertainment, but it brings the goods, the great music, every time. When Brian stands behind his keyboards and presents a tune, it is mesmerizing. Equally adept at both high energy tunes and lovely melodies, you feel the full range of emotions every time you attend a BC concert.

If you think that we are impressed by Brian and cherish his association with The Smooth Jazz Cruise, you would be right. Our hope is that he remains a part of our family forever. Recently, ECP Executive Director Michael Lazaroff had the opportunity to pose some questions to Brian. Here is a transcript of their chat.

Lazaroff: Brian, we have corresponded frequently over the past few months, but it has been over a year since we have seen each other. How are you doing?
Culbertson: Man, I’m doing pretty good Michael, thanks. However, I don’t really leave my house much, but that’s ok. I like my house! I have read a lot of books, started painting last year, and made a serious dent in my wine fridge!

Lazaroff: You have been very, very busy during the pandemic. Can you share with us what your musical activities included in the past few months?
Culbertson: Well first and foremost, I released my “XX” album one year ago, on April 10th, 2020. I was supposed to head out on a 70-city tour as you know, but we know what happened there. So, in lieu of touring, I turned to the streaming game, now having streamed well over 100 shows called “The Hang” (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, every week). It’s really been a great way to stay connected and it’s fun. Beyond that, I’ve released a couple more albums too: “Music From The Hang” (Nov. 2020) and most recently, a more ‘filmscore-esque’ project called “SOUNDSCAPES” (March 5, 2021). Right now, I’m 15 songs in on a TRILOGY album (yes 3 CDs, 30 tracks) coming out this fall of ’21. And each Friday on “The Hang,” I debut another NEW song.

Lazaroff: Your Napa Valley event is at the top of the list for our smooth jazz fans. As we see the pandemic subsiding, what are your plans for that magical festival?
Culbertson: Unfortunately, we had to postpone it yet again this June to next June of 2022. Looks like that’s a recurring theme among festivals and cruises. Bottom line, I didn’t want to do Napa unless we could really do it 100% right, so that means we just have to wait until things are fully back to normal. Fingers crossed for ’22.

Lazaroff: You put great thought into the titles and content of your recordings. Is there something that you can share with us for the near future?
Culbertson: Yeah, so this new TRILOGY album (coming this fall) is more electronic based (sonically similar to my “Colors of Love” album). However, each one of the albums will have its own distinctive feeling that you’ll be left with, i.e. passion (Part 1 – Red), reflection (Part 2 – Blue), and then hope (Part 3 – White). When I started writing these songs, I realized that certain songs gave you a sense of one of these feelings, hence the reason I’m separating them into 3 different albums. But, they all share the same overall production ‘sound’ so that’s why they work together as a TRILOGY. I’m right in the middle so it will be exciting to see how the remaining 15 tracks develop. Oh, I don’t have any song titles yet. That typically comes later for me after I live with each song for a long time.

Lazaroff: If how early guests line up for a show is an indicator of popularity, then your shows on The Smooth Jazz Cruise are very, very popular! How do you go about putting together such a different show each year?
Culbertson: Haha, yeah, gotta love the fans for lining up. That’s a serious commitment, (thank you guys!). So, in putting the cruise show together, I try to just mix it up and look at my set lists from the previous few years to make sure I’m not duplicating too much. Of course, I will always play certain ‘favorites,’ but I love to add new songs as well as old ones that I might not have played in awhile. On top of that, I also look to see what other artists are on the cruise that particular year in case a collaboration will present itself. On a production level, I also work hard with the lighting designer (Justin Geiger) to make sure that my lighting and video assets are on point to match each song as much as possible. That is equally important to me as the music. You know I’m a visual kinda guy! Oh, and the band has to have matching wardrobe, lol.

Lazaroff: It is time to talk ping-pong and wine. You are an expert in both. How do you jive being a ping-pong player and a wine connoisseur?
Culbertson: I’d say I’m more of an enthusiast, than an expert. We all have other things that we’re into, and these are just two things I enjoy. Thankfully they help balance each other out in terms of my waste line. Haha…

Lazaroff: One last question, what is your favorite aspect of being at sea on The Smooth Jazz Cruise?
Culbertson: It is absolutely the ability to hang out and talk to the guests. There is no other event that is as conducive to ‘hanging’ as the cruise. I mean, just standing in line to get an omelette in the mornings is fantastic. I talk to more people before 10am during the week on the ship than I do the rest of the year. I love it!