Try as you may, it’s very difficult to dislike Jamie Cullum. His combination of boyish charm and charisma has earned him legions of fans, particularly of the feminine persuasion, but there’s more to this artist than his cutsy good looks. A dedicated and multi-talented musician, Jamie Cullum has earned his place as one of Britain’s superstars. His music is thoughtful and original, blending a variety of musical styles with jazz to bring this often over-looked genre into modern popularity.
Although he seems to have attracted attention only recently, Cullum released his first album more than a decade ago. The self-funded Jamie Cullum Trio-Heard it all before was produced in only limited numbers and was released while Cullum was still at university. After graduating with a degree in English and film studies, Cullum devoted more time to his music, releasing the critically acclaimed Pointless Nostalgic in 2002.
While being likeable is no pre-requisite for musical success, it certainly helps, and Cullum’s popularity soared after appearing on the Parkinson programme in Britain in 2003. There followed a bidding war between record labels and Cullum signed a lucrative deal with Universal, leading to three successive releases beginning with Twenty Something in 2003. The album featured a number of jazz standards including ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ and ‘What a Difference a Day Made’ as well as other covers including Hendrix’s ‘Wind Cries Mary’.
What made this album interesting was the way it was recorded. Being primarily acoustic in nature, the recording process was very much of the old school, featuring live recordings with very little dubbing and digital interference. This reflects Cullum’s own desire to keep things simple and his ability to play flawless renditions of classic tracks is one of the things that has earned him praise, both at home and abroad.
Cullum released Catching Tales in 2005, another impressive album that would lead to an extensive world tour in the latter part of that year and into 2006. The album features collaborations with a variety of musicians, including hip-hop artist Pharell. After a brief hiatus, Cullum released The Pursuit in 2009, featuring a wide range of musical styles, including some experimentation with electronic instruments in ‘If I ruled the World’.
Although Cullum remains rooted in jazz, his willingness to embrace other genres creates interesting and original fusions that defy classification. His vocal style is undeniably sweet, but coupled with instruments ranging from his famous ‘stomp box’ to brass instruments and electronic loops, he is able to produce something far more dynamic. What we get in Cullum is a modern redefinition of an old style of music and then some. He is able to create new sounds while setting up a base that is both comforting and familiar.
Cullum has been noted for playing gigs very much in the spirit of original jazz musicians. Experimentation and improvisation feature heavily in his shows and it’s not uncommon for a single performance to last for more than two hours. Combine this with a performer who knows how to please his audience and you’re guaranteed to be entertained. Considering his growing profile, the meagre ticket price he’s asking for is well worth it.