Orpheus and I first crossed paths a long the time ago. While playing some Andy Narell tunes, Orpheus looked over at me in my four wheeled music box and started patting his foot to the steel drum’s beat. He grabbed his harp and marched his following party to the tune of “Cham Cha’s Cha Cha” then off they went, somewhere down Love Street. I rolled along for a while, jumping from this track to that but I made a left turn…oh along ‘bout 1989.
Ten years later, all grown–up and sportin’ a certified driver’s license that keeps me pointed in the right direction this time, here comes that Orpheus guy again. He’s still playing smooth jazz, but back then, a decade ago, Brian Culbertson wasn't on the scene yet. Now, what the "O" man was playing sounded a lot like him. I said to the “O” man, “Dude, Brian Culbertson wasn’t on the scene in 1989. What's upwitda chops?” Orpheus responds, “He started following me when he made the “Long Night Out” album. You should check his new Cd out. You’ll love it!”
Mmm, somethin’ ‘bout love.
Brian’s new Cd, “Somethin” Bout Love” is fresh, funky and heads in the same direction Orpheus went. Down Love Street. The first and title cut, “Somethin Bout Love” takes a different stance on Brian’s same theme but the vocal chorus weaved in on this and other compilations on CD moves him surely into the smooth jazz contemporary and possibly UAC (urban adult comtemporary) radio airplay field. This Cd should get around pretty quick. The song fades in with whispers then builds to the horn sectioned background (another first for Brian) and goes on to showcase Brian’s economizer-like piano playing. Brian is very conservative with his key play. Other artists flair and gliss their way in and out of phrases but Brian keys in each note very deliberately. Those stuck on the sidewalks of my glide-by know it’s piano music coming their way, as they feel the need to marchstep to the bop and stick of Alex Al’s bass and Ricky Lawson’s skinset.
Orpheus had it bad for this girl named Eurydice see. Folks back in those Greek mythology days said he had a love so strong for her that when she was killed by life’s circumstances, he went to hell to get her back, even persuading the devil to give her up. Now that’s love. I’ve driven through hell but can’t say I’ve stopped there long enough for directions or nothin’. Somethin' 'bout love makes a person give up their old way of living and perceiving to partake of what love stored above has to offer.
I’m sure we’ve all asked the question “ Do You really Love Me?” I’ve asked that question to myself and others plenty of times where one night, Brian and I were smooth jammin in the basement of the neighborhood spiritual center, i.e. church, mending the computers for the next class to come jam up and just as Paul Jackson Jr. plucked out the question, along comes my Eurydice, Deanna. What!?! Orpheus, you again! The mystical god of rhythm has blown my thought lost object of love’s desire back to me. Brian picks up on the love question right where he left it a long time ago with his debut album. Leaving no unanswered questions pertaining to what one waits for, Steve Cole, Brian’s protégé on sax, Michael White on drums, and my boy Lenny Castro, push percussion all the way to the riff. Once there, Brian and Steve Cole renew old ties from their last outing, the 1997 pressing of “Secrets”, where they tempo tie the bridge, accentuated altruistically by Alex Al.
Speaking of secrets, let me backtrack a few years. When I first met Deanna, she was married and I was wondering about what marriage was. Snake bitten, she had to leave me and move to towns distant. Five years later, following a whim strummed by the playback of musical momentum, we by chanced again. The roles were reversed but we always knew that if there was a way, we would be together in the future. I was deep into jazz then and still am. Deanna heard the licks of Orpheus’ lyre for the first time and we were sight’s first love. Years of searching for my Eurydice paradise through others eyes made the trip through Hades woeful for all involved.
Track three is a vocalized shout out about how it must feel for all of us when we have to move on with life ghosted by love's visions of the past. Lori Perry sings about the above situation so solemnly, it sounds like the prayer offered up to the clouds above each of those several times written about. I’ve been able to move on from past shipwrecks but Deanna put me hard against the rocks…if you"ll excuse my pun. I finally realized that it was this Eurydice that I was always searching for, yearning for, destroying self for. Mmm, somethin’ ‘bout love.
On “Getting Over You” , Ms. Perry's resonating resolution,
Baby, when I met you, you were full of life, electricity in your eyes. Darlin’ when you touched me you made me so happy inside for your love had arrived. Honey, when you left me I felt so alone. Sweetie, I remember you told me that you had a girl in your life and she could come back anytime. Getting over you is the hardest thing for me to do. Crying every night with you on my mind.
Fast forward 4 more years, past the other highways and byways you’ve seen and heard about. Past the kiss in the church basement, the hugs of time fallen from shoulders well worn. Fast forward to the Secret Garden. That place of all my daydreams the paper trail leads to. Things I found in the garden stayed with me for a generation, kept in my heart and from those whom I made believe they’d touched. Is I’m sorry a good phrase to use when apologizing for a lost love, when you never really understand how the smell, the touch, the love look from another has permeated your very being?
Quincy Jones and El Debarge first came out with “The Secret Garden” about 10 years ago too. I remember it like it was yesterday. Her copy of the album used to sit on top of the left speaker of the b-box which used to sit in the left corner of the living room, next to the doorway to the kitchen. Mmmm, somethin' ‘bout love. Brian’s instrumental rendition has the smell of field flowers jostled by the summer breeze that graced its fragrance and put around her neck those many years ago. Sho’ yo right!
Growing up, Culbertson listened to 70s R&B/pop/funk bands like Blood Sweat and Tears, Tower Of Power and Earth Wind and Fire and it still shows. Brian credits his dad with helping him develop an ear for the type of music that he makes. Jim Culbertson, a respected high school jazz band director and trumpeter cultivated a love of sanguine sounds for young Brian who eagerly listened to anything his dad listened to. Their Decatur, IL home would be alive with the music of Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, The Brecker Brothers and David Sanborn.
My dad is just “Sittin’ Back” , praying to figure out which way Orpheus has taken his son this time. Jim Culbertson, Brian’s dad is a lot like my dad. On track 5, Mr. Culbertson has his son’s back again, trumpeting life’s lyrical walls in his son’s way down. Prayer and faith in the tangible and intangible notes that come from their keypads and mutes has moved a mountain in their past recordings. On this track they’re at it again, moving Brian’s style off in another firmer, better plotted course through the rhythms of time. Riding to the Cape this past weekend, patting on the wheel counter-time and beat bobbin’ my head like my dad does, I realized again, that dad’s Gabriel blow helped me find the true lighthouse through all my personal storms. Wonder if he ever saw the “O” man in his past?
The marriage between “Sittin’ Back” and some of the prettiest, swamp winding backroads of “Downeastern” North Carolina was stupendous. Sun shining in her hair, the soft humps of asphalt under rolling saying “Goodyear”, and the groove gauge on full! I thought, “This is the street Orpheus took!” As I look to my right to check the seat cover, the timing of the white stripes was in perfect tick with the bass and tight top snare snaps of the backbeat. About three a “pop”. We talkin’ hi-hat action. NC 64 and Brian got real funky as we traced the Scuppernong River up to the solo bridge into a town called Columbia. That’s when Ricky Peterson syncopated his Hammond B3 as Deanna, I and “the cat”, Deanna’s Cougar, crawled the crosswalk in front of the BP station. Brain had mids and tweeters squalling! Even Gramps at the garage lifted a cane.
“Back in the Day” , Orpheus became famous because of his poems and his songs excelling everyone in the beauty of his verse and music. He also reached a high degree of influence because he was believed to have discovered mysteries, purification from sins, cures of diseases and the means of averting divine wrath. Sounds like someone you’d follow too huh? With sounds that abound to boot? If he were around today, I’m sure he’d push out a track like six. Back in the day sounds like one of those songs that the band with the little umbrella man out front down in New Orleans would kick out. Deanna requests rewind every time she hears this tune. This melodic mixture of anti-melancholy is the elixir of tight souls. It loosens the back, unknots the neck, rids the rheumatism anchoring the ankle and generally puts you in the happy from the funeral mood, knowing there's a better place in the future.
Back in the day, remember Eurydice. When she was taken shortly after the ruling passed down from the Court of Life, she was banished from the perceivable earth. Banished to the underground, ruled by the god Hades. Orpheus couldn’t find her, didn’t see her pass by but Orpheus, out of every thing he had in life knew, “It’s Only You” when it came to Eurydice and his choosing where to place his love, not being able to move on without. He also knew that he was going to have to go through hell to get her back. Hades said that he’d let Eurydice go on one condition, Orpheus was not to look back till he got home. Orpheus goofed REAL bad, I didn’t!
I followed one lighthouse, the one true lighthouse to where I felt home was. I found it in Cape Hatteras. Standing the test of time through its ordained hurricanes, it is foundation holding fast against each gale’s gusts. I found home to be that beacon of life that gives life. Found it right inside and shared it Saturday. We went to Cape Hatteras Saturday. Ray “the Weeper” Fuller packed his “additional guitar” and Brian stuffed a keyboard, drum programmer, piano, trumpet and trombone into four minutes and forty seconds worth of Tony Maiden’s rhythm guitar, Alex’s bass line and Ricky’s symbol splashes. We didn’t see any dolphins this time but we did see each other. Deanna and I saw each other like we always hoped and prayed we would. Saw it through the “The Rise and Fall” and subsequent rise again. Like the phoenix from the fire, God, Orpheus, and I stole Deanna from the Hades that replacement love brings about, but unlike Orpheus, I didn’t look back. I’m not looking back to where I just came from and fear loosing myself and the lost love of my life. Orpheus, I got your horn and lyre bro, but I’m not looking back. The onward pull from the beacon is just too strong.
Dave Koz does soprano sax like something out of a soap opera as Deanna and I stroll tenderly, tenderly down to the shore after finding a bed to breakfast with. There is when and where the fluidity of disrupted love meets the solid ground of reality. On shore breezes and the back of my hand touch her beach covered brown cheek while Michael Thompson’s acoustic guitar helps me help her to her feet again. We laugh at each other as the ocean claims one of my Timberland’s tiny spaces between my toes. As I trudge from the ocean’s tickle, I’m struck at how this heavy, ball and chain way of walking will go away after awhile, go away with the assistance from the sunshine above our heads. No more stripes down the back, no more Peppi Lapew, I’ve got my pussycat. “Come here Pussycat.”
That’s why we rode to Cape Hatteras. It is the end of the coast and the end of a journey… the beginning of another. On the way back and after a beautiful night of saying yes like the girl in the Herbal Essence shampoo commercial, we really got into Brian’s musical painting of how to get away from the past and onto the future. Track 9 is the great “Escape” we all yearn for to accompany the “full of the grins” and other nuances found after finding that safe harbor and asking it to stay. The drive was special. We were new people renewing old love in an all too difficult world.
Deanna says that there is a black man running barefoot under the cowl of the car we call “Cat”. 70 mph, Brian’s kicker, no Smokey in these woods of the Mattamaskett, D’s eyes glittering in the forwarding sunset and I’m alright with the world. The soft growl of this Cougar’s throat on cruise control is in the same key as the chords laid down in the background. Smooth like cream in an éclair. "I’ll have chocolate milk to go with that please."
Go Back to the “Secret Garden” . Track ten brings us back to where the smell of field flowers augments the glow of her hair and the fragrance around her neck. Orpheus’ love didn’t make it. He looked back when told not to. Mine love did make it back here into the future with me. The aging of this ten year trek didn’t effect her glow, the look in her eyes, nor did it the message in this song, this time sung by Howard Hewett. Deanna’s secret garden was the place I mistook for loving someone else. I was a kid back then, unafraid of being human, a human trying to be. Today, a walk with Deanna in our secret garden is life renewing. After all the mistaken identities of trying to make up for what was lost, after all the personally misunderstood lies about how I actually felt in a given situation and after finding that self when paper clipping the lived chapters and turning the page did I realize that Deanna, my Eurydice, my paradise was what was at the core of my renditions of love. She haunted my soul to the degree of didn’t really know. That missing piece of existence is found again,
again in her secret garden.
Brian says in his press release for this album
"In order to be truly successful as an instrumentalist, sometimes you have to branch out into other kinds of music"Love is instrumental to all our lives and to all the past loves, actions and behaviors, well… “I’m Gonna Miss You” . Like the last verse in this, the last song,
I feel…I’m feelin’ pain. I feel… I feel your face. I feel… I feel you watching me. Hope I see you again…
Brian Culbertson dedicated this song to the memory of Howard Lowell, his “manager and friend” who died from leukemia recently. I dedicate this review to the memory of old and the hope and faith for the new. Blow Orpheus!
There’s just somethin’ ‘bout love.