JAMIE CULLUM “The Pursuit” (Verve, 3 stars)
British pianist and vocalist Jamie Cullum has built a career on performing clever jazz standards and surprising pop-rock covers, with his own compositions thrown in for good measure. His fifth studio album, “The Pursuit,” finds him taking on more original compositions and fewer covers, but with mixed results. His song “You and Me Are Gone” is a lively combination of show tunes, samba, jazz, and funk, while his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop the Music” is both compelling and unnatural. Cullum generally doesn’t try to sexualize his music, so hearing him talking about getting naughty on the dance floor is a bit of a non sequitur. His interpretation of the song, however, is fascinating, with piano interludes interspersed amid emotional and driving vocals. If more of the album focused on these reinventions of jazz and rock tunes, it would be remarkable. But instead, the record focuses more on the tired sounds of anthemic, emotion-driven rock and jazzed-up ballads.