Jazzwise Review: Jamie Cullum Makes Debut At The Proms

With the Heritage Orchestra, his own band and guest guitarist Martin Taylor, Jamie Cullum made his debut at the BBC Proms last night in the Albert Hall appearing for a late-night set which attracted a very large turn out. His appearance followed in the footsteps of jazz musicians from Wynton Marsalis to Loose Tubes who have made appearances at the Proms over the years, the pattern seems to be to have one leading jazz performer or group each season, usually for a late-night set.

Very different to his show at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May when Cullum and the band with a portable version of their kit belted out ‘Cry Me A River’ in the middle of the audience, this set instead was Cullum with Strings, the singer basking in the smart arrangements. Opening with ‘All At Sea’ from his debut album Twentysomething and later covering material from that album, as well as follow-up Catching Tales, and The Pursuit from last year (the unlikely ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ had an airing unlike in Cheltenham), the show was a slight oddity in that it wasn’t the typical Cullum experience.

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Jules Buckley conducted the Heritage Orchestra with some subtlety although it probably wasn’t a typical concert for the Heritage either, they are more at home with the likes of mavericks The Bays. While Cullum was hardly restrained (he jumped off the piano but resisted the urge to take his shirt off) the gig lacked some of the spark of the Cheltenham show. ‘Blame It On My Youth’ with Cullum standing singing next to Martin Taylor worked like a charm, and band MD saxophonist Tom Richards put in a finely judged solo early on, running the changes with some aplomb. It has been a long journey for Cullum in the last seven years. A mainstream pop entertainer with a global fanbase now and a considerable jazz pedigree, it is hard to know where he goes from here. The audience certainly loved it, as he bowed out with some Ray Charles licks and again, an impressive version of ‘Gran Torino.’

– Stephen Graham

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