Newport Jazz Festival: Jamie Cullum at the Newport Jazz Festival article

Jamie Cullum, who has played guitar and piano since age eight, developed an avid interest in jazz from his older brother. He was inspired by piano icons Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck and spent some of his formative years living in Paris, where he honed his abilities performing in jazz clubs. Cullum will perform selections from The Pursuit, his first album in four years, as well as some of his favorite jazz standards and his own originals. His latest music embraces the full range of his diverse talents and far-flung musical passions. While it covers more stylistic ground than anything he’s done previously, the album offers the same musical fluency, emotional commitment and lyrical wit that helped to make Cullum’s prior releases Twentysomething and Catching Tales international crossover hits selling more than four million combined copies worldwide. He recorded his first album, Heard It All Before, at age 19, followed by Pointless Nostalgic.

After spending two years touring in support of Catching Tales, Cullum retreated from the spotlight and spent much of the next two years working on a variety of musical and non-musical endeavors. He and his older brother and frequent collaborator, Ben, joined forces for a dance music project, “BC vs. JC,” that found the brothers creating melodic dance music in clubs across England. Jamie also contributed to albums for Pharrell Williams, the Count Basie Orchestra, Japan’s Soil & Pimp Sessions, Norway’s Beady Belle and France’s Camille, as well as spent time as a Goodwill Ambassador to Ethiopia for UNICEF. Cullum’s highest profile side projects saluted his courtship with Hollywood, beginning with the animated Disney feature Meet The Robinsons, in which Jamie was the singing voice of Frankie The Frog. He followed with his vocal on the Golden Globe-nominated “Best Original Song” from the John Cusack film Grace Is Gone, and culminated in his co-writing and performing with Clint Eastwood for the Golden Globe-nominated “Best Original Song” from 2008’s Gran Torino. Now, he’s back on the road celebrating The Pursuit at concert across Europe and the United States.

Eighteen-year-old Grace Kelly’s career is definitely on the fast track. Wynton Marsalis (who performs on the Fort Adams Stage on Sunday) was so impressed with her three-night stand as guest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in November 2008 that he invited her to join the ensemble at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Harry Connick, Jr. heard her in a master class and invited her to sit in with his band and she has been a featured guest on NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. In addition, Grace has received numerous honors including The Boston Music Awards’ “Outstanding Jazz Act,” WCVB-TV’s “Five Bostonians to Watch,” Downbeat Critics Poll’s youngest ever “Alto Saxophone Rising Stars,” the Boston Phoenix’s “Best Jazz Act in Boston” in the 2009 Best Music Poll (for the second consecutive year) and three ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award. To this astonishing list of credits, Kelly adds Mood Changes, the fifth release on her PAZZ label. The album mixes six standards with four Kelly originals. She is particularly excited about the strides that Mood Changes reveals in her band leading skills. “There’s nothing like playing my own music with my own band,” she acknowledges. She also enjoyed critically acclaimed success on her previous album, Gracefulee, which has dominated the DownBeat Student Awards over the past four years. A student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Grace enjoys “… playing all the time and just living music all day.” Her College is also represented at the festival by the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet on Saturday afternoon.

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George Wein made history 56 years ago when he started the festival era with the Newport Jazz Festival. Along with his company, New Festival Productions, LLC, Wein continues to present the best in established and rising stars, this year including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea Freedom Band with Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride & Roy Haynes, Ahmad Jamal, Wynton Marsalis, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Chris Botti, Jason Moran’s Bandwagon, Jon Faddis Quartet, Gretchen Parlato, Fly, Julian Lage Group, JD Allen Trio, David Binney Third Occasion Quartet, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and many more

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