It’s hard to believe that’s its been twenty years since multi-instrumentalist hitmaker Brian Culbertson released his debut album, “Long Night Out”. An album he created on a shoe-string budget while a student at DePaul University.
In the years since, Culbertson has become one of the most recognized artists in jazz, but always kept thinking about those early days recording in his Chicago apartment. Patiently waiting for the right time to explore the material again.
On “Another Long Night Out” Culbertson returns to his roots by revisiting the album that jump started his career. For this fresh update, Culbertson re-imagines his debut by enlisting the help from some of the greatest artists in contemporary jazz. Retaining the essence of each song while bringing the production quality to 21st century standards.
On its own, “Another Long Night Out” stands out as a time capsule of sonic goodness. Proving that a project twenty years in the making was certainly worth the wait.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Culbertson about “Another Long Night Out” and what he believes makes jazz so special.
Looking back at that first album twenty years later, what thoughts come to mind?
It’s hard to believe that its been twenty years. It seems like the older you get the faster it goes. But as the years go by, you start to find out who you are and I finally feel like I’ve hit a good stride with what life is all about for me. I’m in a good place balancing life with music.
What made you decide to revisit “Long Night Out”?
On the first album I was really limited with equipment, funds and the people I knew. Although I always liked how the songs stood on their own, I always wished the sonic palette and sound of the album could be what it is now. My goal was to redo the production of the album and bring it to life.
You have a lot of guest guitarists on the new album including Lee Rittenour, Chuck Loeb and Steve Lukather. Was there a reason you chose them?
When you get into that top echelon of guitar god, everyone does what they do best. I knew in essence what each one would bring to the song and that’s why I called them about those particular pieces. In the case of Lukather [Beautiful Liar], I knew he would just destroy it [laughs]! He came over and we literally played the song three or four times and every time it just kept getting better and better!
Saxophonist Candy Dulfer also appears on the album. What’s it like working with her?
She has such an amazing attitude and was so excited to be a part of the project. She really wants to get things perfect and I love her for that because I’m the same way. Those sessions were a lot of work, but a lot of fun.
Were there any special moments that stood out during the recording process?
I had Will Kennedy from the Yellow Jackets come in and play drums on one of the first sessions that we did. Will was a huge influence on my drum programming on the first album. To have him playing the grooves I was trying to emulate twenty years ago was a trip.
What’s the origin of the original “Long Night Out” album?
I started songwriting in junior high school and was one of the first generation of kids to grow up with the early four-track recorders and the beginnings of the Macintosh. I always knew that I wanted to get into music production and songwriting but never set out to be an artist per se. But once I moved to Chicago and started listening to the jazz station there I started thinking that it might be something I could do. So I put together a three song demo and sent it to the one person I knew who lived in LA. My friend played it for the president of his record label and a few weeks later called me up and offered me a record contract. It was crazy!
What happened from there?
The label wanted to put the album out in February, and by that time it was already August. They wanted it completed by November, so the next three months were pretty intense. I remember that right before I came to LA for the mastering we were still pulling all nighters mixing it. It was crazy. That’s why I decided to call it “Long Night Out”.
Do you have plans for another new album?
In terms of writing, the plan is to start working on some new material this summer. And I will let this out of the bag slightly. I’m going to be working in Minneapolis. It’s going to be funky [laughs].
What’s your songwriting process like?
I write in a few different ways. Sometimes I’ll just sit down at the piano or keyboard and start improvising. I’ll record the melodies and then go back and listen to see if anything really stands out. “City Lights” was one of those songs where I just literally sat down and started playing that melody. Other times though, I’ll get a groove going with a drum beat and then start layering parts on top of the beat. On those songs, the last thing I do is write the melody. I love fitting the melody into the track and making it groove as much as the beat and the bass.
How do you come up with a song title?
It’s actually pretty difficult to name instrumental music. Usually, it’s based on how the song makes you feel. On that first record, I remember half of the songs were still untitled when we were mastering it. I even had the art department calling and telling me to hurry because they had to go to print [laughs]. So I started brainstorming with a few friends about what to name them. In the case of “Beautiful Liar”, that was a song I had already written my senior year of high school. I was taking private composition lessons and had to write a pop song based on lyrics my instructor had given me called ‘Beautiful Liar’. I originally wrote it as a vocal tune based on those lyrics. When the time came to record the album, I just played it on the piano and kept the title. So there are words to the song that no one has ever heard [laughs].
What makes jazz so great?
The fact that there are no rules and you can do whatever you want. There’s so much freedom that it allows you to keep moving forward to morph and change. The live aspect of it is great too. Typical pop shows are so structured that they’re exactly the same every night. With jazz, it can be completely different from night to night. That’s what I love about it.
For more on Brian Culbertson check out his official website by Clicking Here!