He seems like such a nice guy, but composer-keyboardist-trombonist Brian Culbertson should kick the shit out of whoever stuck him with the “smooth jazz” tag. True, Culbertson’s latest CD, Dreams, is a velvety, late-night baby-maker, but dig a little deeper into its hypnagogic grooves and you’ll find solid and confident grounding in funk and R&B. Unlike smooth jazz atrocities such as Chuck Mangione, Culbertson has no interest in concocting a pop hit, and though he frequently relies on suave and shimmery vocals, the kind of hired guns he turns to are Neo-soul luminary Musiq Soulchild, R&B stalwart Ray Parker Jr. and fatback funkateer Bootsy Collins. Culbertson’s high-water mark remains his 2008 LP Bringing Back the Funk, which cross-breeds sunny Ramsey Lewis-styled melodies with uplifting Earth, Wind & Fire choruses, swinging Jazz Messengers gospel and the exuberance of pre-plastic surgery Michael Jackson. Culbertson’s recent turn to mellow and romantic vibes seems like he’s forsaken funk for the time being. Yet, his compositions sway and breathe while hanging onto the heartbeat of R&B, proving that “smooth” shouldn’t be featureless, and that “adult contemporary” needn’t mean dead and buried.