Jamie Cullum (born 20 August 1979) is an English jazz singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Though he is a primarily a vocalist, he also accompanies himself on instruments including piano, guitar and drums.
Cullum released his first album, Jamie Cullum Trio—Heard it All, in 1999, of which 500 copies were made. Due to their rarity, original copies have sold for as much as £600 on eBay. The success of Heard It All Before resulted in Cullum being invited to appear on Geoff Gascoyne’s album Songs of the Summer.
After graduating from Reading University, Cullum released a best-selling album, Pointless Nostalgic, which stirred interest from Michael Parkinson and Melvyn Bragg.
Just after Cullum made his first television appearance, on Parkinson in April 2003, he signed a £1m contract for three albums with Universal, who beat Sony in a bidding war. Cullum’s third album, Twentysomething, released in October 2003, went platinum and became the #1 selling studio album by a jazz artist in the United Kingdom. Cullum ended 2003 as the UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all time.
Although primarily a jazz musician, he performs in a wide range of styles and is generally regarded as a “crossover” artist with his musical roots firmly based in jazz. Cullum draws his inspiration from many different musicians and listens to an eclectic mix of music from Miles Davis to Tom Waits and many more. Cullum has belonged to several bands, ranging from banging drums in a hip hop group to playing guitar in rock bands such as Raw Sausage and The Mystery Machine, in his teenage youth. Cullum names his elder brother, Ben Cullum, as his biggest musical influence, and the two continue to collaborate extensively.
Cullum is well known not only for his abilities on the piano, but also for his unique entertainment style and charisma. One of the many things that features in Jamie’s concerts is the “stompbox” (not to be confused with an effect pedal for guitars), made from a small wooden block. The stompbox is used to amplify a musician’s tapping foot. Jamie found this in Australia and uses it to enhance upbeat and fast-paced songs such as Seven Nation Army originally by the White Stripes and “Gold Digger”, originally by Kanye West. He is also often found using a looping machine. This plays a heavy part in Cullum’s versions of Seven Nation Army and Teardrop by Massive Attack. Cullum is also often found beatboxing at most gigs.
As well as the White Stripes and Kanye West, Cullum has performed work by Massive Attack, Rihanna, Pussycat Dolls, Radiohead, Gnarls Barkley, Elton John, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Joy Division, Lady Gaga and many others. He has also performed with Kylie Minogue, Sugababes, Will.i.am and Burt Bacharach.
Cullum rarely works to a set list and on average his gigs last just over two hours. The gigs are largely improvised, rooted in jazz but not solely consisting of jazz music.
Cullum has played at many large music festivals, including Glastonbury Festival (in 2004 & 2009), Coachella 2005, 2006 South by Southwest, North Sea Jazz Festival, the Hollywood Bowl (performing with the Count Basie Orchestra) and the 2006 Playboy Jazz Festival. On the April 29th 2006 Cullum played his biggest ever crowd on Queensday in The Netherlands.
In summer 2014 Jamie announced the release of new album ‘Interlude’.
In his own words, from a tour bus between summer festivals, Jamie says, “When I finished my last album, Momentum, I’d started to get into the habit of immediately starting work on something new. I was renegotiating my record deal and not sure of what was going to happen next. My jazz show for BBC Radio 2 in the meantime was three years old and through that I’d been meeting some amazing people.
I was well acquainted with the British jazz scene but only through the show did I get the chance to sit in a room to chat specifics with some of the leading lights of this vibrant community. One of the people I met was Ben Lamdin, a producer who works under the name of Nostalgia 77.
Ben and I are about the same age. We both grew up listening widely, from rock, drum n’ bass to hip hop and discovered jazz through acts like DJ Shadow and A Tribe Called Quest. Loving jazz the way it used to sound and fascinated by the way it used to be recorded Ben set to work in this amazing analogue studio behind a fish market in Willesden, North London. Surrounding himself with like-minded musicians he’s been going in there and making these fantastic records for about 10 years. I have been a fan since day one.
After the interview we decided that we should collaborate and with little hesitation booked three days in the studio, booked musicians and worked on arrangements with Nostalgia 77’s bass player Riaan Vosloo. A few weeks later on a cold January morning we walked in and recorded the whole thing, live in just a handful of takes, often using the first ones – 16 tracks in three days.
Ben and I really tried to avoid more obvious jazz standard choices. It wasn’t so hard – Ben and I are both crate diggers so we approached the repertoire choice and arrangement references from that point of view. We recorded to analogue tape, purposefully using the sound of the room with a roughness-around-the-edges. I then decided to add a couple of duets with two of the people I’d discovered on my radio show: Laura Mvula and Gregory Porter both of whom got their first plays on my show.
So that’s my Interlude. It’s very much something that was recorded in a celebratory way – a celebration of people I’ve met through doing the radio show. Of young British, under-the-radar, shit-hot jazz musicians, those corners of the music that all of us who gathered behind the old fish market love so much. It’s a true collaboration.”
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