Artist Spotlight: Jamie Cullum

Apparently now “tomorrow” means “many days later, while Brandon is slowly recovering from wisdom teeth removal surgery.” Anyways, here’s my long-promised new Artist Spotlight, on…

Jamie Cullum!

Jamie is a singer-pianist from the UK with a very unique angle. His music is very grounded in jazz (not just influenced by jazz, like straight-up jazz-driven music)…but it also takes elements from pop, rock, even a tiny bit of hip-hop at some points. But before we get into that…how did I come across Jamie in the first place? That would be thanks to the dear, departed Star 97.5, what used to be our local vocal jazz radio station. It only lasted about a year or so in about 2007 (it met an untimely end due to ridiculous reasons that I will refrain from ranting about here), but while it was around, it was BRILLIANT. They played a mix of jazz-centered music that seemed to be tailor-made for me and my musical sensibilities. One of the songs that was playing one day was this gem, “All At Sea,” from Jamie’s second album (and major-label debut, if I’m getting my facts right), “Twentysomething”:

This is one of Jamie’s more pop-influenced songs, as most of his original stuff tends to be. The piano is simply gorgeous, Jamie’s voice complements the music almost effortlessly, and the lyrics are fine too. Naturally, this got me hooked on Jamie, and although it was a painstakingly slow and steady process, I started checking out more and more of his music. The rest is history. Ish. 🙂

Notice how I mentioned the piano first. Jamie is, as briefly mentioned in my intro, an accomplished pianist. What boggles my mind is…he’s not formally trained. It’s all done by ear, pretty much. Seeing as I myself can’t play piano that well with music smack dab in front of me, Jamie being able to do that off the top of my head…it’s not something I ever take for granted as a listener. Here’s another nice example of his killer piano chops, on a jaunty version of the classic standard “I Get A Kick Out of You” (also off the “Twentysomething” album):

As with pretty much any artist I end up spotlighting, I could pretty much just have you listen to my entire Jamie Cullum collection and call it a day. Which I’ll kinda probably end up doing. 🙂 But anyways, as you may have heard a bit from his version of “I Get A Kick Out of You,” Jamie has a real knack for taking extremely well-known songs and completely reinventing them in a very dynamic way…not to mention the songs he ends up choosing are often quite all over the place genre-wise. Case in point…here’s his cover of “Singin’ In The Rain” off “Twentysomething,” and then a take on Rihanna (yes, you heard that right) off his most recent record, “The Pursuit.”

And, as I talked about earlier, his original compositions are terrific as well. He really was firing on all cylinders with his latest album, “The Pursuit”…two choice cuts off that disc, the buoyant “I’m All Over It” (which interestingly enough, seems to be about a breakup) and the deliriously catchy “Mixtape” are two of my absolute favorites:

And just so I’m not leaving his excellent sophomore major-label effort “Catching Tales” out, here’s a song from that record called “Catch The Sun” (which is actually a cover, of an English alternative band called the Doves). The piano (as always with Jamie’s music) is absolutely terrific:

I could go on and on about him (for example, did you know he has his own BBC Radio show? or that he and his wife just had a baby? or that he was the singing voice of the main frog in “Meet The Robinsons”?), but I won’t. Jamie just has a knack for taking jazz music, a genre that people often see as old-fashioned or one-sided,  merging it with his own outside influences (as well as his own clear love for jazz), and creating something fresh and vibrant that both celebrates the old and embraces the new. I honestly couldn’t think of a better sign that the jazz genre will be thriving for years to come than Jamie’s endlessly inventive and incredibly accessible music. To close, here’s a rollicking performance of his song “You and Me Are Gone,” with the BBC Heritage Orchestra at a 2010 Proms performance (the fact that he’s a jazz/pop/rock artist and was invited in the first place to play the Proms is a major recognition of just how versatile he and his music can be):

See y’all soon (and “soon” hopefully won’t change into a similar meaning as “tomorrow” :)) with some more new posting. I hope to get my cover-centered new feature off the ground, and we’ll see if that ends up happening. For now, thanks for reading!


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