Your choice: Jamie Cullum is 1) the British Harry Connick Jr., B) the British Michael Buble or C) the 21st century Mel Torme. Or maybe all of the above – my choice frankly.
He’s a terrific pop jazz singer who, as does Connick, also plays the piano. (And, as does Buble, has the reputation of a man who entertains the bejabbers out of fans at concerts.)
His voice doesn’t begin to have the virtuoso command of Torme’s, but when he sings things like Cannonball Adderly’s “Sack O’Woe” or Harold Arlen’s “Out of This World” with a tenor solo by James Alsopp that obviously pays tribute to Coltrane’s classic version, you’ll know that Cullum is a jazz singer who’s got his greatest forebears in his head. Which is to say that, like Torme, he can charm you to death at the same time that he takes the pop jazz singer’s profession very seriously even though he’s not singing in arenas or on TV reality shows. He’s a first-rate promoter of the jazz singer’s cause, as Torme always was (and Connick and Buble are often distracted from).
You can hear his willfully eclectic taste on his radio show weekends on Toronto’s CJRT-FM (91.1).
This new Cullum disc is a surprisingly strong one. His voice is somewhere near Buble mixed with Johnny Mercer. He sings a duet with Laura Mvula on Billie Holiday’s classic “Good Morning, Heartache” and with Gregory Porter on “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” And there are some rare but juicy standards – “Lullaby of the Leaves,” for instance. For basics, he’ll give you Richard Carpenter’s “Walkin’.” which is definitely not Miles Davis.’
Broadway gave him “Make Someone Happy,” Mary Murphy gave him his song “Come and Get Me” and he sings Randy Newman’s “Losin’ You” in a way Newman would have to love. The title tune is merely the vocal version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.”
When it’s time to wrap it up and go home, Cullum knows how to do it. “Come Rain or Come Shine” is how it’s done – really done.
A near-terrific and unexpected piece of work from this singer. Any popularity it achieves will be good for everyone.
– Jeff Simon