I recently had the privilege of seeing 35-year-old British jazz/soul virtuoso Jamie Cullum play an intimate club here in New York City and MAN, what a treat. In town for a couple of shows opening for the one and only Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, Cullum squeezed in a couple of intimate sets and showcases to promote his forthcoming Blue Note Records debut, Interlude, out January 27th, his seventh studio album (the album came out October 6th in the UK on Island Records).
Interlude is a return to form for Cullum, who’s sound has been known to straddle that thin genre line between Jazz and Pop. According to the press release, the new record “marks a shift to straight-ahead jazz and a return to interpretation from an artist who has made a habit of bending genres, writing original material and bringing new sounds and new listeners to the music.” According to Cullum:
“To get where you want to go, sometimes you have to go back to where it all started. Interlude is a celebration of my love of jazz that I get to revisit every week on my radio show. Through it, I have connected with some of the most talented musicians on the scene. This is a collaboration with them. Recorded in the original way—live, in one large room, straight to analogue tape, in single takes.”
Having been a fan of Jamie’s since the release of 2003’s Twentysomething, his major label international debut (Verve), I’ve wanted to see him live for a while now, but U.S. appearances are few and far between. Saying “YES” to an intimate show at Manhattan’s iconic Blue Note Jazz Club was a no brainer. Singing to a packed house in two back-to-back performances, Cullum and his signature swagger impressed a crowd made up of fans, radio employees and label representatives. Singing songs from Interlude as well as a smattering of hits and covers (including a fantastic mash-up of his covers of Pharrell’s “Frontin‘,” Rihanna‘s “Don’t Stop The Music” and Snoop Dogg‘s “Drop It Like It’s Hot“), Cullum earned his end-of-the-night standing ovation, bringing plenty of energy and snarky British humor to boot.
Interlude was produced by Benedic Lamdin of Nostalgia 77 and includes a number of classic “jewels from the American songbook,” including the album’s title track penned by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli. Thrown into the mix are some jazzy interpretations of contemporary songs including Sufjan Steven‘s “The Seer’s Tower” and Randy Newman‘s “Losing You” (BOTH of which were live standouts from his Blue Note set) as well as STUNNING collaborations with Grammy Award-winning American Jazz vocalist/songwriter Gregory Porter and critically acclaimed British songstress Laura Mvula. Cullum previously gave both Porter and Mvula their first radio plays on his own award-winning radio show, airing on BBC Radio 2 in the UK, which is the most listened to jazz broadcast in all of Europe. Check out this sneak peek into the making of Interlude BELOW.
The pre-order is now up for Interlude (iTunes). Fans who pre-order the digital album instantly receive a copy of first single, “Good Morning Heartache,” featuring Laura Mvula. The song was originally recorded by Billie Holiday back in 1946, however as a solo and not a duet. Cullum seems happy with Mvula’s efforts, praising her “truly unique voice,” while Mvula herself is honored to have been asked to sing on the track, applauding the album as being “everything” and Jamie for being “sublime and masterful as ever.”
Jamie Cullum‘s duet with Gregory Porter, a cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is another unusual choice for a duet in that it’s never been sung that way before. While a version The Animals recorded is most well-known, Cullum and Porter take their inspiration from Nina Simone‘s original rendition.
When making Interlude, Cullum required a producer for the project that shared his creative vision and Ben Lamdin turned out to be that producer. The two jazz talents got along swimmingly when Lamdin appeared on Cullum’s radio show and decided to come together musically. According to Cullum:
“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 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.”
Jamie’s self-released his first album, Heard It All Before, in 1999, while he was studying at the University of Reading. His follow-up, Pointless Nostalgic (2002) started out as self-funded but was ultimately picked up by legendary indie jazz label Candid Records and certified Gold in the U.K. It was followed by Cullum’s breakthrough major label debut, Twentysomething, which climbed into the Top 5 in the U.K., where it was certified triple Platinum. Cullum’s international profile rose yet again following the release of two songs on the Meet the Robinsons soundtrack and of course a Golden Globe for “Best Original Song” for “Gran Torino,” which he co-wrote for the 2008 Clint Eastwood film of the same name. His new album, Interlude is the follow-up to Cullum’s 2013 album Momentum, which he recorded with producers Dan the Automator and Jim Abbiss. Check out the just released music video for “Good Morning Heartache” featuring Laura Mvula BELOW.
Interlude (Track Listing)
2. Don’t You Know
3. The Seer’s Tower
5. Good Morning Heartache feat. Laura Mvula
6. Sack O’ Woe
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood feat. Gregory Porter
8. My One And Only Love
9. Lovesick Blues
10. Losing You
11. Out Of This World
12. Make Someone Happy
13. Come And Get Me
14. Lullaby Of The Leaves
15. Come Rain Or Come Shine