Written by John Fordham
Jamie Cullum wisecracked to the late-night Promenaders that he’d thought the BBC’s invitation must have meant playing warm-up piano in the foyer. Similarly, eight years ago he would say he looked forward to his Pizza Express gigs for the free pizza. His self-deprecation about his star quality doesn’t sound disingenuous, however. The no-longer-twentysomething still hurls himself into a show as if he wants nothing more than for the crowd to go home happy, which it manifestly did.
Full TV guideCullum careered through 90 minutes of standards and originals with a gusto more like the Proms’ Last Night than week seven – backed by an efficiently funky quartet, and spurred and canoodled by the jazz-adaptable Heritage Orchestra under Jules Buckley. The opening All at Sea was ushered in with warbling flutes, rumbling timpanis and muted trumpets – an atmosphere briefly mirrored by Cullum’s opening notes, before he was on his feet, cranking up the heat with jackhammering, rock- piano chords.
Just One of Those Things was a languorous overture turning to rolling swing, driven by a catchy piano hook and trumpeter Rory Simmons’s elegant variations. Cullum delivered the funky Get Your Way while standing on top of the piano, then let a boldly reharmonised If I Ruled the World coalesce out of drum tattoos and whistling-wind sounds. It was a wistful, sometimes hymnal version, and one of the night’s most haunting episodes – alongside a sumptuous, strings-embraced account of What a Difference a Day Made, and a lucidly simple and delicate version of Blame It On My Youth, accompanied only by one-man-orchestra guitarist Martin Taylor. Twentysomething was a brassy swinger jostling with interlocking horn riffs, It Ain’t Necessarily So an exuberant brass-band stomp; then an assortment of hand-clapping shout-ups culminated in a holy-rolling Ray Charlesian finale to These Are the Days, before Cullum bowed out pensively and alone on movie-score ballad Gran Torino.
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