Dan Holowack Talks Jamie Cullum

Today Jamie Cullum arrives in Toronto, Ontario and I will finally have the opportunity to see this innovative young jazz-master live! The last time I bought tickets to Massey Hall was last year to see Jerry Seinfeld (a comedy hero of mine). Toronto is only Jamie’s 7th stop on his sold out World Tour to promote his new album ‘The Pursuit’. I have followed Jamie’s music for many many years. He’s so versatile and creative in his arrangements my ears remain interested track after track. In this album Jamie continues to stretch the typical jazz genre until it meets with other contemporary influences. Based on the videos I’ve seen, he’s got terrific stage presence and loves to transform current radio hits into newly improvised and ‘jazzified’ covers live on stage. Jamie Cullum’s visit is also featured in the Globe and Mail – a great review of his work, inspirations and background on the new album.

I purchased Jamie’s first album while visiting my good friend, Richard, in Victoria BC. Victoria has a 5 story record store with the most obscure treasures. I really only picked up Cullum’s album ‘Pointless Nostalgic’ because one of the tracks on the back was ‘Well You Needn’t’ – a terrificly challenging and fun Miles Davis standard. At the time I was playing jazz standards daily with the jazz trio/quartet at my high school. But Jamie didn’t just perform traditional jazz standards, he also recorded an outstanding cover of Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry’ on this album. The arrangement is masterful, especially when you consider he was only 23 years old and this began as a self-funded project. The night I bought the CD it had become too dark for us to drive back up to Nanaimo and my flight was the next morning. We parked the car at the airport, set an alarm and lowed the seats to try and get a few hours sleep – Jamie’s album playing on the stereo.

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I picked up Jamie’s next two albums, ‘Twentysomething’ and ‘Catching Tales’ in the years that followed. Ripping them from CD to the mp3 player, iPod and BlackBerry as time pasted. When living in London UK this past Autumn 2009 I kept a close eye on Cullum’s tour dates, but no luck. He was hard at work on ‘The Pursuit’, a four year labor of love.

This album still has the jazz roots, but also clearly speaks to Jamie’s diverse musical taste. I must admit it took some time for me to warm up to it – certainly more ‘poppy’ that what I’d expected, but I’m really enjoying the sound and anticipate an terrific live show at Massey Hall. One of my favorite tracks, ‘Just One of Those Things’, was recorded with none other than the Court Basie Orchestra. As mentioned in the Globe and Mail article, Jamie also listens to programmed dance music, “whether it’s Madlib or Timbaland or Pharrell and the Neptunes, house music, drum and bass music, Massive Attack, Portishead.…”. You might find his cover of Rihanna’s hit tune ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ entertaining – Youtube here.

Yeah. He will be outstanding live. I’ve waited so long for this.


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