Concert Review: David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson

David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas
August 9, 2012

By Melody Charles


After years of mutual admiration, path-crossing and parallel gigs, Brian Culbertson and David Sanborn enraptured thousands of jazz fans when they appeared together in Dallas’ AT&T Performing Arts Center for stellar performances in front of an enthusiastic full house on Thursday night.

Performing for the first time together as co-headliners of “The Dream Tour,” Mr. Sanborn and Mr. Culbertson couldn’t have capitalized on their catalogs at a better time, due to Mr. Culbertson’s June release “Dreams” and the 25th anniversary of a similarly-titled Sanborn classic, “The Dream.” After building solid camaraderie during a recent jazz festival, the composers and instrumentalists wisely decided to join forces and “continue the party on land,” which allowed them to gift the audience with nearly two hours of covers and hits.

Backed by a six-piece band, the musicians took the house through a gamut of emotions and influences, ranging from Culbertson’s gauzy, melody-driven current Number One single, “Your Smile,”  Sanborn’s instantly-recognizable cover of “Spooky” and one of the night’s best-executed performances, “Bang Bang,” where the humorous and hammy Culbertson led fans in singing along to the oh-so-complicated refrain of “cornbread, hog-maws and chitins” and even a vegetarian alternative, “tofu, brown rice and berry juice.”

Given their sharp synchronization on-stage and easy back-and-forth stage banter, it’s hard to believe that the two men had never worked together before: “I learn something new every night from this guy,” Sanborn said warmly about Culbertson, who confessed to being humbled at even being on the same stage with someone who “shaped a lot of my music growing up” and flushed boyishly at the effusive praise.

The prolific pair certainly fed off of one another’s energy, which was a good thing since each piece was at least ten minutes long: Sanborn’s stirring sax and Culbertson’s virtuosity on the keyboards and trombone were irresistible during the funktastic Sanborn smash “Run for Cover,” Culbertson’s “Our Love” and a spirited rendering of W&F’s “Serpentine Fire.” Mr. Culbertson was as animated as he was intense, confessing wryly that he was glad to be back in Texas, but regretted his decision of walking around in a black t-shirt (“That was kind of a mistake, it’s some kinda hot around here!”). 

But what he didn’t joke about was his focus on the music, even as he and Mr. Sanborn laughed their way into a slinky and sensual number that, coupled with good wine, was guaranteed to “make the clothes fall off.” When female fan kept screaming at Culbertson, he brought the house down by throwing her a wink and hunching over his keyboard for a scorching solo that positioned him over its length as if he were playing with a lover’s body…..entirely from the opposite side.

Before a loud and resounding encore, the two main attractions of “The Dream Tour” exited stage right,  eager to meet and greet the fans who’d gathered to get their CDs signed and thank the pair for  exemplifying the best of classic and contemporary jazz.


Here is a video of the two artist together earlier this Summer:

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