Jamie Cullum goes genre-hopping on new album; Maura Kennedy’s soul on ‘Parade’

Jamie Cullum, “The Pursuit” (Verve). 2 1/2 stars.
Maura Kennedy, “Parade of Echoes” (Planned Effervescence). 3 ½ stars.

Jamie Cullum, “The Pursuit” (Verve). 2 1/2 stars.

He’s been described by some as a “one man British invasion.”

Broadway balladeer, soundtrack writer, DJ lover of dance floor music, jazz-pop vocalist Jamie Cullum is a genre-hopping chameleon of considerable merit.

One can hear the influence of everyone from Cole Porter and Billy Joel to Ben Folds and Tom Waits in his music. “The Pursuit,” his first solo album in four years, covers plenty of musical terrain.

Pictured in front of an exploding piano on the album cover, Cullum is one exceptional keyboard player, a fact made abundantly clear in cuts like “Mixtape,” during which he name drops everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Louis Armstrong and the swinging Porter track “Just One of those Things.”

He has a thing for the occasionally schmaltzy ballad like Joel on “I Think, I Love,” and he can stumble badly such as during the dance track “Music is Through.” But Cullum turns the tables just as effortlessly when he gets into the subterranean club scene on his imaginative cover of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.”

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Maura Kennedy, “Parade of Echoes” (Planned Effervescence). 3 ½ stars.

She’s carved a very successful career as half of the duo The Kennedys, and now guitarist and singer Maura Kennedy steps out with her first solo album, based around songs she wrote at a pace of one per month for a year.

Like peering into her diary, the songs reveal a steady stream of emotional ups and downs and the music is wildly diverse starting with a Kate Bush meets Enya darkly layered-vocal gem “The Thing With Feathers.”

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