by Jonathan Widran
Considering Michael Feinstein’s lifelong love affair with the music of George Gershwin and the legendary songs he wrote with his brother Ira—and Feinstein’s global renown as a premier ambassador of the Great American Songbook--it’s ironic that the five time Grammy nominated singer can’t pinpoint the exact moment when “Rhapsody in Blue” changed his life.
He remembers he was 12 or 13, and thinks it could have been when he saw a TV film biography on George--or it could have been the sampler record that came with his aunt’s old phonograph system that had the piece’s middle andante section. More clearly, the Columbus, Ohio native remembers that friends of his parents later loaned him a full recording—and he was hooked. “Hearing ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ galvanized my heart and soul like no other music previously had,” says Feinstein. “It’s hard to fully explain what was happening in my body that day to make me feel this way, but I remember feeling transformed. I listened to it over and over, trying to figure out what made this music so powerful, so distinctive, so wonderful. If this sounds like a coming of age love story, that’s because it is.”
The moment Feinstein “met” George launches the “I’ve Got A Crush On You” section of The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs (Simon & Schuster), the singer’s lushly illustrated new book (written with Ian Jackman) that combines his personal memories and reflections with a wistful but sharply detailed chronicle of The Gershwin Brothers’ musical history.It begins with Feinstein establishing his good fortune of meeting Ira at age 20 and establishing a deep friendship with the lyricist while working at his Los Angeles home as an archivist in Ira’s later years (Ira Gershwin died in 1983 at the age of 86). The singer wraps the 350 page tome with a sweeping essay ruminating on George’s genius and a series of fantastical propositions in chapter called “What Might Have Been…”
These colorful musings center around all the plans George had when he died from a brain tumor at the age of 38 in 1937—and all he might have accomplished had he been given more years. Feinstein, who launched his 25 year recording career with Pure Gershwin (1987) and recorded two other Gershwin projects in the late 90s, cleverly frames his narrative with chapters related to the themes of 12 of his favorite songs; each section is prefaced by a page featuring Ira’s lyrics. These range from “Strike Up The Band” (for Chapter One: George and Ira – The Music and The Words” to “They All Laughed” (Chapter Five: Music and Society), “Someone To Watch Over Me” (Chapter Six: “One Plus One Equals Three – Love Songs And How To Rewrite Them”) and “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’” (Chapter Nine: The Top of the Mountain – Porgy and Bess.Feinstein previously recorded many of these songs on his Gershwin projects, but offers fresh interpretations of all 12 on a CD that is part of the book packaging.
Though he is an acclaimed pianist in his own right, he chose Cyrus Chestnut—whom he met via opera great Kathleen Battle--as his accompanist on these fresh arrangements. During the time the two were preparing for this recording, Chestnut was prepping for his first performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the first time.“My decision to use 12 representative songs as a springboard for the stories and anecdotes I share in the book is something that evolved,” says Feinstein. I didn’t want to do a linear bio but more of a cornucopia of culture changing moments of the Gershwin’s story and the way my life and the world have been impacted by their music. I thought it would be interesting to take specific songs from different years and eras of their career, then use those as a basis for what developed in that chapter. This was all thought out before Ian and I started writing. The song choices were multi-layered, mixing familiar songs and more obscure personal favorites that would help me impart the information. As hard as this is for me to believe, there are people who don’t know a lot about the Gershwins and have never heard some of these songs.
“I asked Cyrus to join me on the recording,” he adds, “because I fervently admire his work and knew that he would bring a jazzier flair to the songs reflective of the Gershwin’s natural connection to the art form. I knew he would also bring a unique approach that would inevitably lead me to vocal interpretations that would be fresh and most importantly, different from my versions on the recordings I did so long ago.” In many ways, The Gershwins and Me is an homage to a time in America’s cultural history when, as Feinstein writes in the book’s introduction, “music played a much more important role in our society and it was as essential in our lives and as comforting as eating Wheaties in the morning and making family outings in the park on Sunday.”
The 56-year-old performer muses that he grew up in an era where he caught the “tail end of that rose colored time” and laments the way the arts and their communal significance have been diminished over time.“I feel like the world is changing and art and music is devalued,” Feinstein says, “so this felt like the right time to make a statement about what the Gershwins meant to me personally and to our American heritage—in such a way where I invite readers to experience the sense of excitement in their creative process. All of this is ultimately geared towards guiding people to the music. I’ve written some in the past about my relationship with Ira but I’m at a different place in my life and my feelings about him and George are more sacred and I tend to be more metaphysical when I look at how they created their works.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the project was some of my buried memories being triggered by pieces of memorabilia I came across when looking for ways to illustrate the book. In these moments, and sometimes when I’m performing their songs, I feel a vibrational connection to them, as if their energy survives and it’s available for me and anyone else to tap into.” Beyond offering insights into the moments where the Gershwins cultivated and first shared their beloved works, the singer’s focus is on celebrating and preserving the creative and spiritual essence of the 20s and 30s, when the Gershwins created that music. The book is not only a culmination of Feinstein’s commitment to do his part to keep their legacy alive, but also a cap on his own recording and touring career, which includes an annual 200 plus shows around the world and recordings paying homage to other songwriters and artists, who like the Gershwin’s captured his and the world’s imagination. These include Burton Lane, Jule Styne, Jerry Herman, Livingston & Evans and, most recently Frank Sinatra.
Currently, Feinstein is producing a film with Steven Spielberg and Oscar winner Marc Platt for Dreamworks about the creation of the Gershwins’ landmark folk opera “Porgy & Bess” – with a screenplay penned by Pulitzer prize winner Douglas Wright. “Over the years, many different writers and producers tried to create biopics on George’s life, which was not tragic until his early death,” says Feinstein. “But Gershwin’s boldness in doing Porgy & Bess, and his insistence on having an all-black cast, earned a lot of opposition at the time--and these are themes that are still very relevant in our modern world. Ira taught me the importance of preserving what we are taught by our elders, and the film and this book are ways for me to honor this advice. What I wrote in my conclusion to the book’s introduction says it all: ‘As long as people care about music, they’ll care about Gershwin.’”
GEORGE THOROGOOD/Songwriter Universe
By Jonathan Widran
Gearing up for the launch of his 60 date, five month North American tour celebrating the 40th Anniversary of his band George Thorogood & The Destroyers, the iconic blues/rock singer and guitarist has an incredible confession to make about his most famous and enduring song “Bad To The Bone.” When he wrote it, he wanted Muddy Waters to sing it. When the late blues legend’s reps rejected it, Thorogood thought Bo Diddley might do it justice – but Diddley, whose early rock and roll classic “Who Do You Love?” has been an integral part of Thorogood’s repertoire for 35 years, didn’t have a deal at the time and turned it down as well.
Thorogood, whose upcoming U.S. and Canadian dates coincide with the release of the George Thorogood & The Destroyers Icon compilation CD and Eagle Rock Entertainment’s Live at Montreux DVD, adds that the same is true of many other original tunes that have become a core part of his legacy. “I wanted George Jones and Dean Martin to sing ‘I Drink Alone,’ I wrote ‘I Really Like Girls’ with The Stray Cats in mind, and Merle Haggard, my first choice for “Oklahoma Sweetheart’, didn’t record it. I was especially upset about the Muddy Waters thing, but I couldn’t get to first base with management, and then he died so it was too late.
“For all the resulting success I have had by recording these songs myself,” he adds, “my biggest thrill has always been taking an unknown or little known blues song that I loved and exposing it to the world. These were the songs, after all, that inspired me to write my own compositions and once I started playing them I turned them into my own signature tunes. I enjoyed interchanging my originals and the others so much that sometimes people thought my own songs were old obscure blues tunes I had uncovered. People often thought ‘I Drink Alone,” which was a mainstream rock hit in 1985, was actually an old song.”
Thorogood & The Destroyers’ classic albums included powerhouse interpretations of great tunes that might otherwise have been lost to blues, rock and country music history. Better Than The Rest, which the band recorded in 1974 but was not officially released until 1979, included classics by John Lee Hooker (“Huckle Up Baby”), Howlin’ Wolf (“Howlin For My Darling”) and Willie Dixon (“I’m Ready”). Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” (first released on the band’s self titled debut) became a Destroyers’ standard, as did Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” (the title track from their 1978 set).Other artists and composers Thorogood covered include Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Brownie McGhee, The Isley Brothers, Bob Dylan, Johnny Otis, Carl Perkins and Fats Domino.
When asked what makes a great blues song, the singer says, “I wouldn’t know because there are very few of them,” before adding, “Ask Robert Johnson.” Thorogood included Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman” (originally recorded in 1936) on his band’s debut album as well. He adds, “There are a lot of great songs in rock and country, but most that are considered ‘great’ blues songs are just 12 bar jams with clever words in them. Beyond those limitations, a great song is a combination of a lot of things, strong lyrics, a memorable title, a catchy hook. It’s sort of like a good car, it’s not about any single component but a combination of things working in synch together.” Standard in most biographies written about Thorogood is the fact that he was a minor league baseball player who decided to become a musician in 1970 after seeing blues singer/guitarist John P. Hammond in concert.
Thorogood, a native of Wilmington, Delaware, insists that the story starts long before that: “I was hooked on Beatlemania immediately and in the 60s, the whole world, not just musically but every other way too was Dylan, The Beatles and the Stones. Then there was the second string after them that influenced me – Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck in The Yardbirds – and later Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Steve Miller.
“By 1970 when I got into doing my own music, to use a baseball analogy, it was like the whole team was stocked full of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantles,” he adds. “I knew nobody would every sing like Roger Daltrey or Rod Stewart, but making music was all I was interested in. Then in rapid succession, I saw Hammond, J. Geils and Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. All of them were making a living doing a revved up version of Canned Heat songs, and I thought to myself, now this is something I could do. Blues/rock was fast emerging with Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt and I thought, okay forget trying to be like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, this is where my heart was.“I had the slide guitar thing going,” he continues, “so I could be like Hammond, Elvin Bishop and Duane Allman if I picked the right tunes. Home run or bunt, you do what you have to so you can stay in the lineup. To use another analogy or two, even if I’m not pouring Dom Perignon and serving filet mignon, there will always be a market for making the best cheeseburgers in town. There’s only one Marlon Brando but Robert Duvall has made a great living as an actor, hasn’t he?”
From their first show at Lane Hall at the University of Delaware through legendary career elevating appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and at Live Aid, the opening slot on the Stones’ historic 1981 tour and their own record breaking 50/50 tour, George Thorogood & The Destroyers is a time tested road band still out there doing over 100 dates per year. Their upcoming 40 Years Strong Tour is billed as “50% celebration, 50% declaration and 100% Thorogood throwdown.” Because of this notoriety, it often surprises even longtime fans that the singer/guitarist actually launched his career as a solo acoustic act.“I was more of a Robert Johnson/Elmore James country-blues player,” he says. “That soon petered out, but I’d gotten enough feedback from artists like Brownie McGhee and Willie Dixon who thought I had something going. I knew I needed more.”
Thorogood called high-school friend and drummer Jeff Simon, and with the later addition of their original bassist, who was later replaced by Billy Blough – as well as Jeff’s van – the electric trio soon graduated from basement rehearsals to local gigs. “We knew there was still time for one hardcore high-energy boogie-blues band to make it. We relocated to Boston and toured the Delaware Valley, Philly and New England non-stop. Crowds loved us. The acts we were opening for, like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, loved us. We were playing great, but still couldn’t get a record deal and didn’t earn more than $200 a night.”Released on the day Elvis died, their debut album on Rounder Records went gold. “Bad To The Bone,” released five years later, became a hit video on MTV and was licensed for a wide variety of TV shows and films on its way to becoming Thorogood’s signature hit. “I can’t say that I ever made peace with the fact that I couldn’t get Muddy to record it,” he says, “but I will be performing it live for the rest of my life. It’s the ultimate fantasy of the cool tough guy.”
By Jonathan Widran
If Pink’s legion of fans had any doubt that the iconic bad girl and three time Grammy winner could balance new motherhood with pop/rock superstardom, their concerns were calmed when the singer/songwriter’s latest album, The Truth About Love, became her first to debut at #1 on both the Billboard 200 and Digital Albums charts. It sold 281,000 its first week while also hitting the pole position in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. When the high energy Greg Kurstin-produced lead single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” rose to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100—while hitting #1 on the Pop Songs, Hot Dance Club Songs and Adult Pop Songs charts—Pink scored another unique career achievement.
With 12 Top 10 singles, she ranks third among women with the most since 2000, behind only Rihanna and Beyonce. With the impressive string of accolades the Doylestown, Pennsylvania native (born Alecia Moore) has racked up since her 2000 debut album Can’t Take Me Home and especially after her 2001 breakthrough Missundaztood and its dance floor anthem “Get The Party Started,” few would have blamed her for taking a sabbatical from writing recording and touring after the birth of her daughter Willow in June, 2011. She has sold over 40 million albums, 65 million singles (nearly 20 million digital tracks) and more than one million DVDs worldwide. 15 of her singles have reached #1 in at least one or more countries.In addition to two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (“Lady Marmalade,” “Imagine”) and another for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (“Trouble”),
Pink has received two Billboard Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, two MTV Europe Awards, two People’s Choice Awards and many others. Her previous studio album Funhouse debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and spawned her first #1 Hot 100 solo hit “So What”—which is to date her highest selling single in the U.S. (over four million downloads). She kept the party going with “Raise Your Glass” (also #1) and “F**in Perfect” (#2), two new studio tracks from her 2010 compilation Greatest Hits So Far…In addition to teaming up with Kurstin (Lily Allen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foster The People) for the first time,
Pink collaborates on The Truth About Love with longtime cohorts Max Martin and Shellback, Billy Mann (“The Truth About Love,” “Beam Me Up”) and Butch Walker (“Are We All We Are”). She also co-writes with busbee (“Try”) and famed songwriter Dan Wilson (“The Great Escape”). The singer sums up the collection, which showcases the singer’s take on different shades of love (the dark, the light, the happy, the sad), with a simple three word mantra: eclectic, aggressive and fun.
“The sound of the album is typical ‘clusterf**ium,” she says, “like a mystery bag. You put your hand in and you don’t know what you’re gonna get. It’s all over the place but in a cool way. I think that’s why people don’t always understand me, because you can’t put me in a box. But that’s why my shows work. If the brother comes and the sister drags him because he’s her ride, he’ll find one song out of forty he likes. Becoming a mom has affected me personally, but musically not much as changed. I’m still the feisty and slightly angry girl I have always been. And I’m still a selfish songwriter, writing from my own life because I’m not creative enough to write about someone else’s. The Truth About Love is also personal, all about what’s happening right now. Only I didn’t write any lullabies, and there are no diaper stories!”
Even as Pink is gearing up for a massive seven month 2013 tour across the U.S., Europe and Australia in support of The Truth About Love, she has her priorities straight and has even joked about calling it the “Willow Tour.” “I went into the studio to work on the album last January when she was seven months old, but till then I was a full time mama,” she says. “I’m completely smitten and obsessed with her and being with her is so heads and tails above anything else that I do. Creatively, I found myself in a unique headspace after she was born, like ‘how is this even possible?’ Of course I still want to make music, but I don’t want to be a rock star cliché parent and screw up my kid. So I had to figure out how to do both excellently because I’m a Virgo, a perfectionist and an overthinker. Especially because of the relationship I have with my mom which has gotten better over the years but wasn’t always so awesome.“During the writing and recording process,”
Pink adds, “I made it so that I had every weekend off for my baby. I would work one to ten p.m. Monday through Friday, but nurse at three and five and send her home to poppa (husband Carey Hart). It was the perfect handoff, and we just made it work. I have no idea how I wrote 40 songs for the project. But it happened, and it works and I’m proud of it. Willow’s happy, it’s great, we’re all happy and as long as the tour works for her it works for me. I’m looking forward to taking it on the road and being a gypsy and showing her the world. I’m glad I get to show her different cultures, what’s going on in these places and just how small the world is and how connected we are. As she gets older, she’ll see that her mom does good work and we’ll get to go to Germany Christmas markets and on a carousel in Paris. It’s very romantic, actually. The last tour we did for Funhouse was amazing and everyone enjoyed it. I’m wracking my brain how to top the acrobatics and the covers we did of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Led Zeppelin, but I’m going to figure it out.”
BRIAN CULBERTSON/Smooth Jazz News
By Jonathan Widran
As he looks forward to another incredibly busy year that includes his third annual Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, his first show ever in France and a return visit to the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival, Brian Culbertson has found the perfect way to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the release of his debut album Long Night Out.Working with a dynamic, hand chosen lineup of all-star musical friends – one he could only have dreamed about when he recorded the original version - he’s treating his fans to Another Long Night Out.
The album marks the multi-talented performer’s first independent release (on his BCM Entertainment) after years on major labels like Warner Bros. and GRP/Verve.More than simply revisiting infectious classic tunes that still sound fresh, Culbertson has created a dynamic new production the 11 tracks in the way he had always envisioned them, but couldn’t afford the first time around. He recorded Long Night Out in his small apartment in Chicago when he was a sophomore at DePaul University. With the primitive recording equipment he had back then, he could only record short bits of audio, not full tracks. He recorded the main piano sound on a Roland D-70, programmed all the drums, percussion and bass parts himself. His limited budget allowed him only to hire a guitarist and saxophonist on a few songs.
On Another Long Night Out, everything is built around the core sound of a real Mason & Hamlin grand piano.“By doing this album, I’m not saying anything negative about the original version,” the keyboardist said. “In fact, I thought it was great and think it still holds up well. One of the things that strikes me is the naivete of the songs, because I wasn’t aiming for commercial success at the time. I was just writing tunes I liked. I really like the chords I used, and the twists and turns many of the tracks take. I don’t hear that in a lot of today’s instrumental music.“For obvious reasons, like me being a college student on a limited budget and working with early 90s technology, it lacked certain elements I always wished it had,” he added. “Revamping these songs is an idea I have had for a long time, and I thought it would be cool to make that happen with some of my favorite players that I grew up listening to and who inspired me to pursue music in the first place. The timing had never seemed right before, and the labels that I was on preferred that I do original material. So when GRP and I mutually decided to part ways after some great years there, I finally had the chance to go fully independent and took advantage of the opportunity.”
When Long Night Out was released to great acclaim and radio airplay on Mesa/Bluemoon Records in February, 1994, the 21 year old was excited about making music inspired by The Yellowjackets, The Rippingtons, Bob James, David Sanborn and other pioneers of the sound that became known as “smooth jazz.” He no idea that he was embarking on a career that would someday make him one of the elite artists in the genre.Culbertson is grateful for the many opportunities over the years that have helped him grow as a composer, producer and performer.“What I bring to the new version of Long Night Out is 20 years experience as a producer, not only of my own albums but for many other artists,” said Culbertson, who turned 41 on January 12. “I’m also a much better piano player. Back then, I wasn’t really a piano player at all, at least when it came to recording. It was all synth piano, which I had to edit to make it sound better.”
One of the great by-products of his success is having an amazing pool of A-list musician buddies he can reach out to when he’s looking for a specific sound.He likens the process of choosing the right players for each track on Another Long Night Out to casting a movie. He became increasingly excited about the project when each targeted call to the right guy (or girl, as Candy Dulfer adds her funk energy to the title track) took the songs to a whole new level.Featured guests include Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb, Eric Marienthal, Rick Braun, Steve Lukather, Ray Parker, Jr., “Patches” Stewart, Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Thompson, Jonathan Butler and (from The Yellowjackets) Jimmy Haslip and Will Kennedy.David Benoit does string arrangements on “Beyond the Frontier,” “Beautiful Liar” and “Changing Tides.”
Culbertson chose Russ Freeman and Jeff Kashiwa to play on “Double Exposure” because the vibe of the original is so much like The Rippingtons. Culbertson’s wife Michelle, a renowned opera singer and composer in her own right, produced all of the album’s piano tracks.Culbertson said that he picked the legendary Ricky Lawson to record on “Beautiful Liar” and “Changing Tides” because of his renown as a big ballad drumming; these tracks are among the last Lawson recorded before his death in December.“It was really special for me to have Ricky on this album,” he added. “I had worked with him randomly over the years, and every time I would hang out with him, he would say inspiring words to me. He was not only an extraordinary musician, but the kind of guy who would make everyone around him be a better person. I’m still so sad that he is gone, but I’m honored to have known him.”
Over the past decade, Culbertson has embraced many of the technological innovations that have come to define the modern musical landscape, interacting with fans via numerous social media portals (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and keeping them up to speed on his activities with an ongoing video blog. For the first time ever, in line with his choice to go fully independent, he broke new ground in his career by going the “fan funding” route (on the Indiegogo site) to cover some of the costs of recording and marketing Another Long Night Out. With a final tally of $51,000, he exceeded his initial goal by over $20,000 – truly reflective of his loyal fan base and the excitement of the synergy he has with them.
While many of the upstart indie pop, rock and jazz artists use sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to raise initial money from fans before they start recording, Culbertson had completed most of the recording sessions for Another Long Night Out (paying for it out of his own pocket) by the time he set up his funding page. He reinvested some of the money raised by the campaign in the recording itself, while other funds were allocated towards marketing and promotional efforts. Culbertson’s passion for the project was so strong that he wouldn’t have minded funding it all himself. The real reason behind the Indiegogo campaign was the opportunity to offer exclusive items to his supportive fans, based on their level of contribution, that he never had a chance to before.
“The way we did it made it possible for a couple from Denver to come to a mastering session, where we all listened to the final mixes and talked about the making of the album, months before it would be released,” he said. “It was so much fun to share that experience with them, and their excitement was just like mine when I started thinking how cool it was to be doing these songs with so many musicians I love and grew up listening to. For a ten dollar contribution, fans received a full MP3 of the album on a weekly, track by track basis. For $25, they got that plus, when it’s released, an autographed CD. Other items included concert tickets, tickets to the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway in June and the new ‘Culbertson pinot noir’ wine I helped create in partnership with Reata Wines and Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. My main goal in doing the crowdfunding was to give my fans these cool opportunities. It’s a great way to make them feel part of the process. None of this would be possible without them.”
Unlike many artists who hit the road with the same band year after year, Culbertson rotates personnel in and out depending on the focus of the tour and the project he is currently promoting. This year’s tour will include shows at Berks Jazz Fest, Seabreeze Jazz Festival (VIP Dinner Cruise), a week at Pizza Express in London, a show at the Theatre de Pibrac in Toulouse, France, the San Diego Jazz Festival in Carlsbad and Catalina, where he was the first artist booked for 2014. On March 12, he and his band will have a full dress rehearsal for the “Long Night Out – 20th Anniversary” show. His lineup includes Chris Miskel (drums), Eddie Miller (keys, organ, vocals), Marqueal Jordan (sax, vocals), Adam Hawley (guitar) and Michael Stever (trumpet).In the midst of all the other touring, Culbertson is looking forward to his 3rd Annual Napa Valley Jazz Getaway June 11-15.
Launched in 2012, the first year of the multi-faceted event attracted 450 guests; this year, he estimates that he will host over 3,000. Among the legendary contemporary jazz and R&B artists joining this year’s festivities are Eric Benet, Morris Day & The Time, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Earl Klugh, Ohio Players, Mavis Staples, Average White Band, David Benoit, Eric Marienthal, Jazz in Pink featuring Gail Jhonson, Althea Rene & Karen Briggs, Cecil Ramirez, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and special guest comedian Keenen Ivory Wayans. Tickets are available in single day to five day packages, and there are also single event tickets. The two main venues this year are the 1,200 seat Lincoln Theatre in Yountville and the Jamieson Vineyards, which hosts all day events on Saturday and Sunday in an outdoor festival setting.
As on the many cruises Culbertson has performed and hosted on over the years, there are many extra-musical events designed to bring the audiences closer to the artists and each other. Michael Lington will host a cigar and port tasting event at Prager Winery & Port Works in St. Helena. There will also be a dinner and jam session for 125 people at Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar. Each afternoon, the Westin Verasa Napa will host free wine tastings featuring local boutique wineries. Ten local big name wineries will be providing “2-for-1” tastings to NVJG Access Card holders (as part of the 4-Day Gold Package and 5-Day VIP Package). Culbertson is also excited about sharing his new pinot noir, which will be available via his website starting February 25 for $30. He says the wine is “light and vibrant, with a gorgeous taste, and pairs well with all kinds of food.”
“I think the Getaway has become as popular as it has not only because of the great music, sense of community and exciting extras, but also for the simple reason that people love the idea of lifestyle events,” Culbertson added. “I work on every last detail of it with members of my team throughout the year, setting up all sorts of cool new things, and it’s fun because what we’re doing is basically planning a big party. I love the idea of putting on a premier event and going all out to provide a high quality production, the best possible sound and lighting systems and some of the most exciting artists from the worlds of pop, R&B and jazz. Having toured for so many years has really given me an education about all of the elements that go into creating a special experience for the fans. “That’s the approach I took to Another Long Night Out as well. I would certainly have made this record just to listen to myself, but knowing that my fans are as excited about it as I am is a wonderful bonus that inspired me to make it even better than I ever dreamed possible. I got into all of this because of my great love for music, and working on the album brought me back to that feeling of what made it all so exciting in the first place.”