Funk! bio >>
Amidst life’s cacophony of conformity, there are times when we’re compelled to color outside the lines. To dance to the beat of a different drum while generously culling from vibrant new palates. All in the name of putting a little paint where it ain’t. Lauded and prolific Jazz/R&B musician Brian Culbertson sets his sights on a new canvas as he embarks on yet another exhilarating sonic excursion with his 15th studio album Funk! A 14-track opus dedicated to a venerable and indisputably influential genre, Funk! finds Culbertson stretching beyond the boundaries of the jazz world while paying homage to a litany of funk pioneers from yesteryear. Buoyed by the lead single “Been Around The World" the new album - due September 30th - features Culbertson lending his superb jazz chops to a dynamic stew of original compositions certain to make Funk! one of the most feted albums of 2016.
While audiences may view Funk! as Culbertson’s maiden voyage into unchartered waters, he’s anything but new to this. In many ways Funk! can be seen as a follow up to his 2008 album Bringing Back The Funk. “That was inspired by jamming with Prince one night in Las Vegas,” reveals Culbertson. The result was a collection of songs co-produced by the legendary Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) and featured a cast of funk royalty including Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley (James Brown), Larry Graham (Sly & The Family Stone) among many others. The album soared to #1 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, #99 on the Billboard 200 chart and produced the #1 Smooth Jazz Songs charting tune “Always Remember.”
After the untimely passing of both Prince and White this year, Culbertson saw it ﬁt to revisit his love for funk music and the memory of the two icons that acted as conduits for his first foray into the genre. “It was really important for me to pay tribute to those guys who were huge influences on me,” says Culbertson. “Not only as a kid growing up but their impact on me while working with the both of them. Funk! is dedicated to their incomparable legacies.” With that in mind, Culbertson began penning tunes at the intersection of Prince and White’s mutual ﬂashes of musical genius: funk. “My mission was to create songs that people could sing along with: simple, catchy and humorous,” says Culbertson. “Songs that reminded them of the feel of songs from back in the day.”
Born in a crucible of George Clinton’s patented hyperbolic wit, James Brown’s super syncopated soul, and the unmistakable groove of the Minneapolis sound, Funk! is a praiseworthy journey into sound that raises the roof at every turn. “It’s a big party; a sing-a-long,” he says. “You’re going to want to get up and move.” Furthering his mission to the masters, Culbertson approached the recording process in a way that stays true to the warmth and resonance of hits from a bygone era. “This record has all live instruments,” Culbertson proclaims. “No sequencing or drum machines. I’m just trying to keep it alive and keep it old school.”
In a further effort to connect with the Minneapolis sound, Culbertson collaborated with vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Chance Howard (Prince, The Time, Candy Dulfer) and bassist/guitarist St. Paul Peterson - former member of The Time and Prince’s 1985 passion project The Family. They co-wrote two songs (“Get Ready” and “Been Around The World”) at Peterson’s Minneapolis studio. As the album’s lead single, “Been Around The World” is a celebration of funk’s international influence and undeniably vast reach. “We’ve all been traveling for so many years around the globe,” says Culbertson. “In our travels, we realized that funk music has traveled the globe as well. Anywhere you go around the world, they know about funk. From China and Korea to Mexico and across Europe, everyone loves funk.”
Funk! opens with the rousing “Get Ready,” a rich mélange of horns and bass pops featuring Culbertson in a career first: lead vocalist. “I’ve sung along to other songs of mine before, but never the lead,” Culbertson says. “The whole band is chanting the lyrics behind me. The song is about getting ready for the funk. It just smacks you in the face. And when you hear it all together, it comes across as a group of musicians having a good time in the studio. It’s pretty intense.” A viscous jam embroidered with clavinet and guitar riffs, “The Call” captures the essence of the unique camaraderie between a band of brothers pledging allegiance to the funk. “As a band, once you go out on the road together you’re more than just band mates,” explains Culbertson.
“You become like family. You really have each other’s back and grow to love each other. The song is about hanging out with the fellas and going with the flow of the night. Sometimes I’ll call Chris my drummer or other band members and see what he’s doing. We’ll go hang out and probably end up at a jam session and go with the vibe.” To underscore the listening experience, the song is accompanied with a vibrant animated music video featuring Culbertson and the gang and is slated to debut around the release of the album. In addition to nine new original tunes and three interludes, Funk! includes covers of two of the biggest funk hits from the 1970s. Culbertson and his band of funkateers sink their teeth into a unique arrangement of Wild Cherry’s 1976 #1 platinum hit “Play That Funky Music.” Culbertson decided to include the tune after performing it to ecstatic crowds on several tour dates.
“One night on tour, we’d already done an encore, but the audience wanted a second one. We didn’t have another original song prepared, so I just blurted out to my guitar player, ‘Play That Funky Music’ just to get something going. The band knew the song, so we all just fell into it immediately. The crowd went bananas.” Culbertson and the crew also put their foot into a brilliant rework of the late Marvin Gaye’s 1976 classic “Got To Give It Up.” Though he’d been performing the song in live shows only for the past year, Culbertson’s connection to the tune finds its genesis in a more stripped down encounter years before. “Back in 2010, Universal Music asked me to do a remix of the original,” he discloses. “They sent me the original ﬁles and I did the remix, which was an interesting mix of jazz, dance and funk.”
A few years later, after playing that remix for his drummer one day, Culbertson added the song into his live show. “The arrangement we came up with was so good, too good not to record,” he says. “So when I started doing this album, I had to include this song.” Funk! was recorded at Culbertson’s own newly reconstructed BCM Studios in his native Chicago with the help of his band members Marqueal Jordan (vocals, sax), Tyrone Chase (guitar), Eddie Miller (keyboards, organ, vocals), Rodney Jones, Jr. (bass, guitar, vocals), Chris Miskel (drums), Michael Stever (trumpet, horn arrangements) and Chance Howard (keyboardist, bassist, vocalist). Funk! will be the third release on his BCM Entertainment label. Part of a new vanguard of formerly major label artists turned indie, the album was aided in part by a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The campaign allowed fans to interact with and Culbertson and his art in ways unprecedented over the breadth of his career. “As an artist, my brand is important to me,” he says. “So there’s a certain caliber of work that my audience expects from me. And it is always my intention to deliver nothing but the best. This avenue of funding provides premium experiences and perks that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. It also enables me to manifest the project in the way I envisioned, which makes it special for the fans. Everyone’s excited about it.” Some of the perks include animating fans into the next Funk! cartoon, autographed limited edition Funk! books, and exclusive tickets to concerts and dress rehearsals.