by James Arn
Britain’s top jazz cat-turned-pop star, Jamie Cullum, has broken his five-year silence with a new album. With “The Pursuit”, Cullum has taken his biggest steps yet into the mainstream. He still manages to remain true to his jazz roots, lacing even his most pop-tastic tunes — “I’m All Over It” and “Music is Through” — with his signature jazzy goodness.
“The Pursuit” is Cullum’s most eclectic effort to date, pulling inspiration from a wide range of musical influence. From the old standard “Just One of Those Things” to the pulsing house beats of “Music is Through”, from the sizzling Latin grooves of “You and Me Are Gone” to the heartfelt ballads “If I Ruled the World” and “I Think, I Love”, and the infectious piano pop of “I’m All Over It”, Cullum leaves no genre untouched. This is his most experimental collection to date, and it also happens to be the best yet.
One of Cullum’s great talents is taking mainstream tunes and reinventing them in his own style. “The Pursuit” certainly allows him to flex these musical muscles, featuring covers of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”, which is transformed into a pseudo ballad with a hard swinging chorus, and “Not While I’m Around” from the musical “Sweeney Todd”.
It’s clear that Cullum is a jazz artist who really loves pop music and is not one who is coerced into tarting himself up by the men in suits. While jazz purists might be underwhelmed by “The Pursuit”, it is clear that its brand of blended jazz, pop, and blue-eyed soul is right in Cullum’s wheelhouse, a place I would certainly like to visit sometime.
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