Jamie Cullum

Posted in MusicWorld on September 13, 2004 by

In these modern times beset by danger and global instability, it’s almost shocking to hear Jamie Cullum sing on his Verve Records debut album that: “These are the days of endless dreaming … Troubles of life, floating away like a bird in flight.”

An old-fashioned optimist and musical gadabout, Cullum is surfing a veritable tsunami of critical goodwill inspired by his breakthrough CD, Twentysomething . A bracing study in nuanced jazz-pop, the disc features original compositions by Cullum and his brother Ben, alongside contemplative interpretations of tunes by Lerner & Loewe, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead and others.

With its mix of classic and contemporary songs, Twentysomething underscores the bitter sweetness of human existence. Consumers in the UK obviously found this musical statement irresistible, as Twentysomething became the fastest-selling jazz debut in UK history (the disc was certified Platinum in just six weeks). BBC Music proudly embraced the singer/songwriter, describing Cullum as a dynamic “Sinatra in sneakers.”

Cullum Fever migrated stateside in early 2004. The singer was called "a one-man British invasion" by the Hollywood Reporter , and “a natural showman with the confidence of a bantam” by TheNew York Times . Writing in the New York Observer , Rex Reed gushed: “A talent this size comes along as rarely as a hot January.”

Born in the rural British county of Wiltshire — the mythic seat of Stonehenge — Cullum is a 25-year-old self-taught pianist with a pugilist’s approach to jazz. And with Twentysomething ’s title track, he may have composed his generation’s defining anthem.  

Twentysomething was inspired by a dinner Cullum had with his college mates, who were all floundering with identical post-college problems. "When I woke up the next morning, I had this idea to write a song about people my age,” Cullum says. “Not knowing their place in the world, or where to go, and how education doesn't really prepare them for that."

Ironically, the song has catapulted Cullum out of his quarter-life doldrums and into a promising career. Aside from tons of favorable print reviews and TV features, VH1 recently named Cullum its “Inside Track” artist of the month.

If Cullum holds to confessional form, his next album will explore the travails of an emerging musical star.


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