Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2016: Kamasi Washington (Festival Edition)

Jamie Cullum

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It’s not easy establishing yourself as a jazz vocalist. You have to know the lineage of the art form, find your spot in a changing jazz scene, and develop your own sound and style. Among the up-and-comers, British vocalist-pianist Jamie Cullum stands out on my to-see list. His charisma and style compliment his badass piano playing in a way that is completely infectious.

Jamie achieved mainstream success with his 2003 release, Twentysomething. The record achieved platinum status and clinched his spot as the #1 selling UK jazz artist of all time. Since then he has won a Grammy for his recording Catching Tales, collaborated with Billy Joel, and worked with Clint Eastwood developing the score for Gran Torino. In around the edges, he hosts a weekly show on BBC Radio 2 where he discusses jazz music and his experience in the industry.

Jamie’s music reflects his varied influences, which range from Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix. (Dig his take on “Wind Cries Mary” from Twentysomething!) His covers can be upbeat and groovy, like “I Only Have Eyes for You,” or sentimental, like his rendition of “Singing in the Rain.” He is planted firmly in tradition, but at the same time he embraces new musical effects, performing with loop pedals and a Stompbox, and often beat-boxing and drumming on the piano. Jamie manages to find a healthy mix of crooning on standards and putting out catchy originals. His newest record, Interlude (2015), features a full orchestra and was recorded in one take.

As an aspiring vocalist-pianist myself, I am drawn to Jamie’s style and ability. More than once I have thought of an idea for an arrangement only to find that he has already done something similar—or better! For me, Jamie Cullum exemplifies what it is to be a thoughtful and innovative jazz musician. Check out what this dynamic artist has to offer!

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