Cullum, Jamie

▪ 2007

      There was no rest for jazzy British pop singer Jamie Cullum in 2006. The young star was too busy crisscrossing the world, playing more than 140 mostly one-night engagements, and riding the success of his 2005 album Catching Tales. The diminutive mop-topped singer, wearing blue jeans and T-shirts and banging away on the piano, offered a style that reviewers likened to earlier singers such as Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, and Frank Sinatra. His repertoire was an idiosyncratic mixture of standards, originals by himself and partners—including his bassist brother Ben—and adaptations of songs by Jimi Hendrix and Radiohead. Cullum also leaped around stages and slapped, kicked, and jumped atop his pianos. Audiences in Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, and South America loved his hyperactive shows, and he toured North America extensively as well. Joel Selvin, in the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote that “there were teenage girls at the show screaming as if he were 'N Sync alongside hippie senior citizens who danced at the Fillmore. It was a love fest, and Cullum clearly wants to be loved.”

      Cullum was born on Aug. 20, 1979, in Essex county, Eng., grew up in Hullavington, Wiltshire, Eng., and—mostly self-taught—began playing in a rock band at age 15. He soon became attracted to jazz and began playing and singing it in bars and on cruise ships. He spent a year in Paris and then attended the University of Reading, Eng., where he studied film and English, composed music, and acted. In 1999 he fronted his own money to record his first album, which he pressed in small quantities and sold from the bandstand. His second album, recorded two years later by a jazz label, became such a favourite on British radio that the major labels Sony and Universal fought a bidding war to sign him.

      Cullum had kept a torrid touring schedule since 2003, when he signed a million-pound contract with Universal and recorded Twentysomething. His singing and playing, which evoked swing and ballad moods rather than rock, were an anomaly in the pop music of the day, but the CD sold 2,000,000 units, 400,000 of them in the United States. Cullum appeared on late-night television shows and was interviewed widely—all part of a marketing campaign as calculated as that of a rock superstar. His careful record production and invitations to perform at top venues all seemed to guarantee an exciting future for Cullum and fans alike.

John Litweiler

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▪ British musician
born Aug. 20, 1979, Rochford, Essex, Eng.

      British musician, who was known for jazz compositions that were heavily influenced by contemporary popular music.

      Cullum grew up in Hullavington and—mostly self-taught—began playing in a rock band at age 15. He soon became attracted to jazz and began playing and singing it in bars and on cruise ships. He spent a year in Paris and then attended the University of Reading, Eng., where he studied film and English, composed music, and acted. In 1999 he fronted his own money to record his first album, which he pressed in small quantities and sold from the bandstand. His second album, recorded two years later by a jazz label, became such a favourite on British radio that the major labels Sony and Universal fought a bidding war to sign him.

      Cullum signed with Universal and recorded Twentysomething in 2003, which was followed by months of busy international touring. His singing and playing, which evoked swing and ballad moods rather than rock, were an anomaly in the pop music of the day, but the CD sold 2,000,000 units, 400,000 of them in the United States. His repertoire was an idiosyncratic mixture of standards, originals, and adaptations of songs by Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix, Jimi) and Radiohead. In 2005 Cullum released the album Catching Tales.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

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