Whenever I watch period films, I always find myself wishing that I were British. Adaptations of Jane Austen novels have the uncanny ability of making me renounce centuries of progress and women’s suffrage and all that—and just make me want to live in the English countryside amongst ducks and pigs and needlepoint.
Jamie Cullum seems to have precisely the opposite problem. The British singer seems to wish he were American. Opening with yet another Cole Porter cover, Cullum’s lucid third album, The Pursuit, is a lovely reminder of the loveliness that is jazz.
His latest musical offering raises the bar of his own standards: everything is faster, bolder, and delivered with a fresh new confidence. The exploding piano on the cover is a great aesthetic analogy to the foreign thrashing found inside this album.
Lead single “I’m All Over It” treads ever so slightly into the territory of a recent hit single by an American singer, but, of course, redeems itself by retaining a slightly superior, slightly snide British air, maintaining Cullum’s musical ingenuity.
This is the voice of Jamie Cullum, all grown up. Ever the romantic, Cullum even invites his fiancée Sophie Dahl (granddaughter of everyone’s favourite childhood author) to lend backing vocals on “Mixtape”—a song that strikes very close to home (“I’m a gentle soul I’m sure /But on the stereo I’m a dictator”): we are all guilty of forcing our taste in music on others…or is it just me?
Cullum flip flops between the old and the new throughout the album: he concludes The Pursuit with a Sweeney Todd cover which is then followed by the synth driven “Music is Through” — a song which is strikingly different from anything he’s ever written in the past. Jamie Cullum has managed to find the perfect meeting point between his oldie influences and a thoroughly modern perspective— and The Pursuit stands as a audible manifestation of his success therein. A jazz singer’s music has become club-appropriate— well, I’ll be damned.