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Jamie Cullum - Britain's Young Sinatra


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Music Life: The Jazz Singer

By John McGurk

08 February 2004

BRITISH jazz scene wonderboy, Jamie Cullum, is set to make his precocious mark on the live front in Ulster, later this month.

To be (Sinatra-ishly) 'frank', the 24-year-old singer/songwriter, with the wonderful line in old time 'crooner' tunes, is a terrific new star.

Try to disregard the hype accorded to the Gareth Gates lookalike, when he signed a £1m, three-album deal with Universal/Verve Records, last April.

For this Wiltshire-born, private school-educated artist with a true love for old school tunes, has the talent to become a 'be-bop' pop idol.

It was while studying at Reading that Cullum took destiny into his own hands - recording his first album, Heard It All Before, and selling copies at gigs.

From the proceeds of that, and by using part of his student loan, Cullum went one step further to make the much more musically assured Pointless Nostalgic album.

But it was the blessing of Michael Parkinson, who granted Cullum two singing spots on his telly chat show, that propelled him towards crossover status stardom.

The half-million-selling success of his third album, Twentysomething, showcases a remarkably assured new talent.

On old standards, Cullum works his magic to invest over-familiar material with new life.

He strips singin' In The Rain of its sentimental sweetness, to give it a downbeat jazz hue.

He's punchy and pleasing on the snappily delivered I Get A Kick Out Of You, and utilises a languorous crooning tone for the regret-tinged Blame It On My Youth.

Harry Connick Jr is an undoubted influence on the vocally scatting What A Difference A Day Makes, and I Could Have Danced All Night, which echoes the American's own tune, (I Could Only) Whisper Your Name.

Displaying more recent rock influences, Cullum's lounge jazz re-inventions of Jeff Buckley's Lover, You Should Have Come Over, and Jimi Hendrix's The Wind Cries Mary, are creatively audacious successes. Lest anyone thinks this guy is a mere cover version crooner, the most impressive part of Twentysomething is the handful of songs written by Cullum, or his brother Ben.

There's the pumping jazz trio kick and bossa nova bridge of the title track. But, best of all, is the blend of Steely Dan piano and Harry Connick Jr 'She' period rock-jazz fusion, on All At Sea - with Cullum's distinctive vocals at their very best.

Cullum has been fortunate enough to emerge at a time when jazz artists like Norah Jones have become major stars.

But, like Jones, Cullum displays a musical versatility - from Fifties standards, to original rock-inflected songs - to suggest that he can remain relevant, when the current fashion for jazz-oriented artists passes.

The Belfast show coincides with Cullum stretching his wings into the world of West End theatre, as his and Ben's songs form part of the When Harry Met Sally musical, which opens in London, that same night.

• Jamie Cullum kicks off a 15-date British Isles tour with shows at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on February 19, and Waterfront Hall, Belfast, on February 20.

Belfast tickets are £19.50, available from the venue box office, Tel: 028 90334455, Virgin, and Ticketmaster outlets. Dublin tickets are 27.50 and 30 euro, available from Ticketmaster.


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  • 4 months later...

I like this guy... he isnt afraid to do his own thing and that's very apparent in his music. I caught a glimpse of him a month or two ago at the BBC live music week in Belfast, doing a set of covers with a difference. The Wind Cries Mary is one of those songs thats been covered a lot but Jamie Cullum's version is the only one I've ever seen where someone beats up a piano and makes it sound melodic at the same time. He restores a faith that musical talent and individualism is far from dead.

I intend to hear more.

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  • 2 years later...

I was listening to a few of his cuts over at MySpace today. He plays a wicked piano, has a great voice and backup band, too. I want to hear more...

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