Bridgeport, NY — Moments after Jamie Cullum climbed out of the shiny, black SUV that had navigated him, a label rep, his manager and a videographer the couple of windy turns off Route 31 in Bridgeport, his hosts pressed the international jazz and pop singer and pianist’s request into his eager hands.
Cullum raised his generous pouring of Jamison’s whiskey and announced, “Cheers!” to the two dozen smiling folks who greeted his arrival along with Internet contest winner Nicole Bynon.
For the next hour on this wintry Friday night, Cullum became one of them.
The Great Britain native hugged Bynon. He chatted with her mother, Sandra Bynon, who had actually entered her daughter in the contest connected to the release of Cullum’s latest CD, “The Pursuit.”
He thanked the owners of the festively decorated home, Gaetano and Pauline Dieni, parents of Nicole Bynon’s fiance, Peter Dieni. He thanked them for not being “Mr. Leatherface, ready to show your gun connection on the wall.”
After he worked the room and had Bynon’s family and closest friends as comfortable as he appeared to be, Cullum eyed the black Yamaha piano pressed against one wall of the living room, another prize won by Nicole Bynom. He told her she could get “more than five grand for it.”
Then he went to work. He banged percussion with is right hand and attacked the keys with his left. And Cullum sang. Wow, did Cullum sing, his husky voice a pure mix of blues, jazz and pop.
He started with Rihanna’s romping “Don’t Stop the Music.” Off came his suit jacket, and down he sat at last onto the piano bench. “No one has to know,” he sang. “This is a private party.”
Cullum moved lovingly into Frank Sinatra’s classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” A world-class concert kicked into high gear in a living room in Bridgeport.
Cullum allowed Bynon’s hair stylist and new friend, Kirsten Tegtmeyer, to duet with him on the classic “Cry Me a River.” At the end, Tegtmeyer – who’d cried when Bynon invited her to see the man who she said has influenced her singing the most – got a hug and the chance to shed more tears.
Before the 45 minutes of moving music was over, Cullum had delivered the silky “Gran Torino,” explaining how director Clint Eastwood had delivered the melody that had gone through his head while he was making the movie and allowed Cullum to build the song that won the 2008 Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
Quite appropriate, because seeing that movie and hearing Cullum’s song was the reason she had entered all her children’s names into the contest that brought the star to Central New York.
Cullum thanked all before ripping into what he called his very favorite song, Jimi Hendrix’s thrilling “The Wind Cried Mary.”
“I had it in my mind coming here that this could be very weird,” he said, telling the crowd how he arrived from London at 7 p.m. and would be leaving at 4 a.m. “It’s actually very nice. … I hope you all remember this, because I’ll never forget this.”