Brian Culbertson’s 2020 vision: Drop his 20th album, “XX,” and launch The XX Tour
Tickets go on sale this week for the three-month US concert trek that begins April 1.
CHICAGO (7 November 2019): As chart-topping multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Brian Culbertson crafts his 20th album, the aptly titled “XX” – Roman numerals representing twenty – he revealed plans for the extensive US concert tour that will support the record release. Beginning April 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, Culbertson will take an elaborately designed concert production, The XX Tour, on the road for three consecutive months, playing more than 70 shows, an extremely rare feat for a contemporary jazz artist.
Culbertson’s catalogue includes recordings of jazz – contemporary and straight ahead – as well as R&B, funk, instrumental pop and New Age. “XX,” which drops April 10, reflects his remarkable diversity.
“It’s a mix of things that I’ve done throughout my twenty records. There’s a lot of funky instrumentals, some pop-sounding tracks, a couple slow jams, straight-ahead jazz, gospel, some vocals, lots of horns and some straight-up FUNK! The album is very much a mixture of some modern sounding programming along with live instruments, too. Real drums on almost everything mixed with programming. Definitely a cool sound,” said Culbertson, who invites fans to get involved with the making of “XX” via an Indiegogo campaign that launched this week (https://igg.me/at/BCXX).
Recreating that cool sound live for The XX Tour is Culbertson’s favorite part. Like his massive Colors of Love Tour that played 77 shows in three months and was captured for “Brian Culbertson’s Colors of Love Tour: Live in Las Vegas” Blu-ray disc and two-disc CD that dropped last Valentine’s Day, Culbertson is creating the sound and look for The XX Tour as a sensory experience. The exuberant performer spends months in preproduction meticulously conceiving stunning visuals – staging, lighting, wardrobe and effects – in order to put on a mesmerizing show each time he takes the stage. In addition to spotlighting the new album, the setlist will include cuts from Culbertson’s hit-filled songbook that has amassed 32 Billboard No. 1 singles. There will also be a segment showcasing songs from “Winter Stories,” an album released last month that placed him in an acoustic jazz trio setting for the first time.
Culbertson, who founded and curates the annual Napa Valley Jazz Getaway and Chicago Jazz Getaway music and lifestyle festivals, is offering two tiers of VIP ticket experiences during The XX Tour. The Ultra VIP package includes front row center seats; an intimate pre-show champagne toast backstage with Culbertson; pre-show meet & greet, photo opportunity and performance; exclusive tour merchandise gift; autographed tour poster; commemorative The XX Tour VIP laminate; and early access to the venue for crowd-free merchandise shopping.
The Meet & Greet VIP package consists of premium seats; pre-show meet & greet, photo opportunity and performance; exclusive tour merchandise gift; autographed tour poster; commemorative The XX Tour VIP laminate; and early access to the venue for crowd-free merchandise shopping.
Tickets for The XX Tour go on sale on Wednesday, November 13 at 10am local time exclusively for American Express cardholders and those connected to Culbertson’s social media and fan email lists as well as subscribers to the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway and Chicago Jazz Getaway email lists. On Thursday, November 14 at 10am local time, presales begin for Ticketmaster and the venues’ email lists. The public on-sale starts on Friday, November 15 at 10am local time.
Below is The XX Tour itinerary (more dates will be added to the itinerary when confirmed):
April 1 Louisville, KY Bomhard Theater
April 3 New Haven, CT Lyman Center for Performing Arts **
April 4 Cranston, RI Park Theater
April 5 Reading, PA Scottish Rite Cathedral **
April 7 Morristown, NJ Mayo Performing Arts Center
April 8 Collingswood, NJ Scottish Rite Auditorium
April 9 Buffalo, NY Buffalo State Performing Arts Center **
April 10 Pittsburgh, PA Roxian Theatre
April 11 Columbus, OH Southern Theatre **
April 14 Detroit, MI MotorCity Casino Hotel
April 15 Ft. Wayne, IN The Clyde Theatre
April 16 Indianapolis, IN Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
April 17 Akron, OH Akron Civic Theater
April 18 Washington, DC Warner Theatre
April 19 Richmond, VA The National
April 21 Clearwater, FL Bilheimer Capitol Theatre
April 22 Orlando, FL Plaza Live
April 23 Sarasota, FL Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall *
April 24 Panama City, FL Seabreeze Jazz Festival *
April 26 Jacksonville, FL Florida Theatre *
April 27 Newberry, SC Newberry Opera House *
April 29 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works
May 1 Atlanta, GA Atlanta Symphony Hall
May 2 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
May 3 Minneapolis, MN Fitzgerald Theater
May 5 Joliet, IL Rialto Square Theatre
May 6 Kansas City, MO Arvest Back Theatre at The Midland
May 7 Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
May 8 San Antonio, TX Empire Theatre
May 9 Dallas, TX Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas
May 10 Houston, TX Cullen Performance Hall
May 14 Ft. Collins, CO The Armory
May 15 Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
May 19 & 20 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center
May 21 Tucson, AZ Rialto Theatre
May 22 & 23 Las Vegas, NV Aliante Casino
May 24 Lake Tahoe, NV Montbleau Resort Casino & Spa
May 27 Santa Barbara, CA Lobero Theatre
May 28 Fresno, CA Tower Theatre
May 30 San Diego, CA Humphreys
June 3 Bend, OR Tower Theater
June 4 Spokane, WA Bing Crosby Theatre
June 5 Seattle, WA The Moore Theatre
June 6 Boise, ID The Egyptian Theatre
June 7 Portland, OR Revolution Hall
June 12 Yountville, CA Napa Valley Jazz Getaway *
June 14 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
June 17 New Orleans, LA The Civic Theatre
June 19 Memphis, TN Minglewood Hall
June 21 Charlotte, NC Knight Theater
June 24 Durham, NC The Carolina Theatre
June 25 Birmingham, AL Lyric Theatre
*Denotes tickets are already on sale
** Denotes tickets will go on sale at a later date
For more information, please visit http://www.brianculbertson.com.
Soul-Jazz flutist Kim Scott emerges in the GRAMMY® race
Music from her “Free to Be” album makes the first-round ballot in two categories
BIRMINGHAM (5 October 2019): It was a hot July for soul-jazz flutist Kim Scott, who rocketed like fireworks to the top of the Billboard chart with her first No. 1 single, which has inserted the emerging artist into the GRAMMY conversation. Scott’s solo on “Emerge” (http://bit.ly/354BX9Y) made the first-round ballot for Best Improvised Jazz Solo while the album on which the track appears, “Free to Be,” is garnering consideration in the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album category.
Scott wrote “Emerge” with keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen, a hitmaker who is featured delivering his own shimmering solo. However, it is the flautist’s fanciful flourishes that are meriting consideration from the voting members of The Recording Academy for the 62nd GRAMMY Awards that take place on January 26, 2020.
After setting the stage to perfection with a Billboard chart-topping single that also went No. 1 on the Groove Jazz Music chart, Innervision Records dropped “Free to Be,” Scott’s fourth album, in mid-July. She had a hand in writing five of the album’s nine songs, which offer an alluring blend of instrumental pop appeal, jazz spontaneity and funky R&B grooves. Scott’s classically trained flute melodies share the spotlight equitably on a few numbers with prominent guest soloists Fritzen, saxophonist Jazmin Ghent and Pieces of A Dream keyboardist James Lloyd. Guitarist Eric Essix, drummer/percussionist James “PJ” Spraggins and bassist Sean Michael Ray anchor the rhythm section with compelling textures and vibrant harmonies crafted by keyboardist/programmer/producer Kelvin Wooten, keyboardists West Byrd and Jaden Scott, alto saxophonist Cameron Ross and instrument programmer Dimitri Turner. The disc’s second single, the bumping “Take It To The Rink,” is presently skating laps around playlists after earning Most Added honors in its debut week at radio.
In addition to her recording career, Scott hosts the nationally syndicated “Block Party Radio Show,” which added to its growing list of stations with the recent pickup on Alabama Public Radio, an NPR affiliate. The artist infuses her energy and enthusiasm into the weekly broadcast featuring the latest contemporary jazz, urban and Latin jazz releases.
The Birmingham, Alabama-based Scott debuted in 2011 with “Crossing Over.” Her records have consistently produced Billboard Top 20 singles. On the concert stage, she’s performed at clubs and marquee festivals, including Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival and Seabreeze Jazz Festival. Scott is also a member of the all-female supergroup Jazz in Pink with whom she has played shows across the US. For more information, please visit http://kimscottmusic.com.
Spyro Gyra taps vinyl for inspiration
Seminal contemporary jazz band mines a collection of vinyl classics for their first album in six years. “Vinyl Tap” drops October 11 with the first single, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” going for playlist adds September 23.
NEW YORK CITY (18 September 2019): Free of the tension of having to write great songs, the five members of Spyro Gyra were laughing and having fun in the recording studio. Creativity flowed as the venerable contemporary jazz band revisited the songs that inspired them from their youth when they were listening to music on vinyl. That artistic fount was spun into “Vinyl Tap,” Spyro Gyra’s first album in six years, which drops October 11 on the Amherst Records label.
“It was tensionless as we ‘warped’ the tunes. We had a world of brilliant music to choose from and we didn’t have to worry about writing brilliant music. It was a really fun project to make,” said saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, who will lead Spyro Gyra on tour to support “Vinyl Tap” with a string of US concert dates beginning November 15 in Newark, NJ after a three-week international trek that begins at the Cancun Jazz Festival on October 23.
When Spyro Gyra manager Phil Brennan proposed the album’s concept a few years ago to bandleader Beckenstein for their 31st album, he knew that it might take some convincing, so he came prepared with an intriguing concept. Brennan suggested that the band use their arrangement talents to transform the originals into something brand new. The challenge appealed to Beckenstein, who soon overcame any misgivings.
“It’s cliché (to record covers) in saxophone-based contemporary jazz. We did not want to sound like a fantastic wedding band. I was really afraid that if we didn’t do our own thing, that our identity would be lost. It was imperative in the creative process – and everybody (in the band) knew this in a big way – that things had to be mixed up. Things had to be jolted out of the old way of approaching the songs. We really tried to come up with a new take on whatever (song) we were doing. We put solos into tunes that really are complete extensions that never had anything to do with the originals,” said Beckenstein.
What initially stands out on “Vinyl Tap,” which was produced by Spyro Gyra, are the wildly imaginative arrangements. Beckenstein said, “The arrangements were put together with everyone in my basement with all the equipment set up. We were all together in the pre-studio arrangement process. It was all done democratically. Spyro Gyra is a musician’s group collective. When you have five talented guys, you can do some cool arranging things.”
Spyro Gyra are Beckenstein, Tom Schuman (keyboards), Julio Fernandez (guitars), Scott Ambush (bass) and Lionel Cordew (drums). The musicians have somewhat of a wide range of ages, which explains some of the diversity of the material recorded for “Vinyl Tap.” Beckenstein selected the album opener, “Secret Agent Mash,” a supercharged and ultrahip mashup of “Secret Agent Man” and “Alfie’s Theme.” “Sunshine Of Your Love” is virtually unrecognizable in its new form as a Latin big band number. The first cut going for playlist adds on September 23 is the plaintive “Can’t Find My Way Home,” which takes on a bit of a western feel and benefits from the soulful perspective of Beckenstein’s saxophone protagonist. “What A Fool Believes” is slowed to become a contemplative power ballad that breaks into a mid-song swing cadence.
“I spent a lot of time listening to radio – classic rock radio – looking for material that had fantastic melodies. If there was a beautiful, arching melody, like ‘What A Fool Believes,’ it would definitely translate to my saxophone ‘voice,’” said Beckenstein.
Adding chromatic and bass harmonicas by Gary Schreiner, “The Cisco Kid” vacillates in time and tempo, letting the band members stretch out into improvisational banter. Exemplative of Spyro Gyra’s ethos, each band member shares the spotlight equitably, adding sweetness and redolent depth to “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” “Tempted” always oozed soul, but the band’s reading is deliberate, adding romance and underscoring the sweeping chorus. “Stolen Moments” is another that essentially becomes an “original” composition in Spyro Gyra’s inventive hands after the piece was reconstructed using entirely new, deft and complex rhythms. The set closes with an exhilarating romp cascading through a groovy expanse on “Carry On.”
“This is the first record we’ve done where we have allowed ourselves to do other people’s material full throttle,” said Beckenstein. “That is not to say in any way that we tried to copy what other people did, but it was really great to reach outside of our writing capabilities for inspiration for us to take off on. And that’s what this album is about.”
Pre-order sales for “Vinyl Tap” begin on iTunes and Amazon on September 23, the same day “Can’t Find My Way Home” becomes available.
“Vinyl Tap” contains the following songs:
“Secret Agent Mash”
“Sunshine Of Your Love”
“Can’t Find My Way Home”
“What A Fool Believes”
“The Cisco Kid”
“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”
For more information, please visit https://spyrogyra.com.
Urban-jazz harpist Mariea Antoinette making a “Thing” about her new single
She previews her forthcoming “All My Strings” album with an imaginative take on Lauryn Hill’s
“Doo Wop (That Thing),” dropping September 23.
SAN DIEGO (29 August 2019): Strip away Lauryn Hill’s scathing admonition to men and women on her 1998 hit, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and you are left with an innovative rhythmic track that astutely balances jagged hip hop edginess and a melodic R&B soul. It’s an unlikely composition for a classical harpist, which makes it Mariea Antoinette’s sweet spot. She has made it her mission to tackle unexpected funk, rhythm and blues, and pop songs, creating new possibilities for her instrument by presenting them with harp as the protagonist. Teaming with producer and arranger Allan Phillips, Antoinette’s reimagined “That Thing” goes for playlist adds on September 23.
Antoinette’s elegant stringed siren provides a surprising contrast over the buoyant beats Phillips constructed. Lush harmonic accoutrements are provided by a vibrant live horn section – trumpeter Derek Cannon, tenor saxophonist John Rekevics and trombonist Jordan Morita – and dramatic strings from the APM Allstars Strings along with Evan Marks’ guitar and Phillips’ keyboards. Antoinette debuted “That Thing” with her band on stage last month at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival, garnering an enthusiastic standing ovation.
“I chose the track for its funky, innovative rhythm and the beats are very cool. It’s a perfect song for harp that people are not expecting. Lauryn Hill is a music pioneer and a leading voice for women and for her style, ingenuity and edginess. The stories she tells through her music and lyrics are fresh and unique. ‘That Thing’ schools both women and men on motivations, keeping your eyes open and being wise in relationships. Everyone loved it when we played it live in San Diego,” said Antoinette.
“That Thing” offers an alluring glimpse into Antoinette’s forthcoming album, “All My Strings.” She and Phillips are busy tracking material for her third album that is slated to drop January 31, 2020 on the Infinity Productions/MAH Productions label. Antoinette’s last outing, “Straight from the Harp,” went top five at Billboard when it was released in 2015. The San Diego-based musician has been balancing her solo career with being a member of the all-star female ensemble Jazz in Pink since 2007. In June, she made her Playboy Jazz Festival debut at The Hollywood Bowl playing with Jazz in Pink, with whom she has performed at several prominent festivals this year, including Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Capital Jazz Cruise and the upcoming Barbados Jazz Excursion and Cancun Jazz Festival. The award-winning harpist collected three statues last year for Instrumentalist of Year (San Diego Prestige Awards), Best Jazz Single for “Overture” (Black Women in Jazz & The Arts Association), and a BMA Image Award from the Black Music Awards. Her high-profile performances include playing for President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Ne-Yo at the BET Awards, at Vanity Fair’s Grammy party with Jamie Foxx and on American Idol. For more information, please visit https://www.marieaantoinette.com.
The Queen City JazzFest was an amazing treat for attendees this year. Once the announcement was made that Michael McDonald, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, and Such would be performing, the stage was set. This year’s festival was hosted by Al B. Sure who serenaded the crowd with snippets of his hit songs. Such opened the show with a few of her songs and her single “Before Dark.” When Gerald and Jonathan hit the stage together, fans knew they were in for a special treat. The pair fueled the crowd with song after song, taking turns individually and together. The soulful, funky, uplifting performance left fans on their feet dancing and singing. At that point, everyone was ready for the highlight of the evening; Michael McDonald stepped on stage to a roaring crowd. As expected, Mr. McDonald did not disappoint. He sat at the piano accompanied by his incredible band and sang his heart out. Fans were taken on a journey through his expansive musical career; they sang along and swayed while holding onto his every word. It was such an amazing moment to witness a true legend sharing his gift. June 15, 2019 was a memorable night that attendees will be talking about for a while.