Article: Radio head: Jamie Cullum @jamiecullum

Written by Elisabeth Mahoney The Guardian, Wednesday 8 September 2010

When Jamie Cullum (Radio 2) took over the 7-8pm slot on Tuesdays in April, relocating Desmond Carrington to Friday evenings, there were grumbles. Fans of Carrington’s were still adjusting to him losing a longer Sunday show a few years earlier – they are not a group to embrace change – and fans of Humphrey Lyttelton’s Best of Jazz show felt things were moving in a celeb-driven, jazz-lite direction. “Give us a real jazz programme by a real expert,” one listener pleaded on the station’s messageboard.

Several months in, however, and Cullum’s show has largely seen off the complaints. It’s not ever going to feature esoteric musical selections so if, like my husband, you prefer your jazz at the wife-frightening end of the spectrum, it won’t be for you. It’s also never going to be the sort of in-depth programme Russell Davies or Alyn Shipton would present: this is squarely in the user-friendly, entertaining remit of Radio 2.

This is a jazz show you can multi-task to, rather than listening in reverential bliss, and it has a friendly blend of old and new, trad jazz and music more loosely connected with the genre. Last week’s edition ended with Tom Waits’s Warm Beer, Cold Women, with Cullum describing Waits as being “as influenced by jazz as he is by Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski”.

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Last night’s show featured an interview with Clint Eastwood which, once you got beyond the showbizzy wrapping (“I’m happy to say he’s a friend of mine now,” said Cullum) was fascinating. Eastwood knows his jazz, so his chat was a likeable mix of informed anecdotes about key performers and venues, and some starry name-dropping. The first time he met Miles Davis, he recalled, Davis suggested he and Eastwood “go out and get some bitches tonight”. More appealingly, he remembered seeing Charlie Parker playing on a stage laden with jazz greats and yet outshining them all: “This guy was playing something else.”

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