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Twentysomething

Jamie Cullum

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Album Review

Already a sensation in his native England, 22-year-old piano man Jamie Cullum comes off like a hip amalgamation of Harry Connick, Jr. and Randy Newman on his sophomore effort, Twentysomething. As with Blue Note's crossover wunderkind Norah Jones, Cullum works best when he's not trying too hard to please hardcore jazz aficionados, but it's not too difficult to imagine his bonus-track version of Pharrell Williams' "Frontin'" turning some jazz fans onto the Neptunes. Showcasing Cullum's sardonic wit and lounge-savvy attitude, the album deftly flows from singer/songwriter love songs to jazzy barroom romps and reappropriated modern rock tunes. Cullum has a warm voice with a slight rasp that retains a bit of his Brit accent even though his influences — Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Tom Waits — are resolutely American. Truthfully, Cullum isn't the most accomplished vocalist and his piano chops are pleasant at best — Oscar Peterson he ain't. That said, he's still a kick. What he lacks in technique he makes up for in swagger and smarts as many of his original compositions reveal. On the swinging and wickedly humorous title track — a take on postgraduate slackerdom — Cullum sardonically laments, "After years of expensive education, a car full of books and anticipation, I'm an expert on Shakespeare and that's a hell of a lot but the world don't need scholars as much as I thought." It's a timely statement in our overeducated, underemployed "dot-bomb" economy and deftly posits Cullum as a jazz singer as much of as for his generation. Also compelling are his choices of cover tunes, as he is able to imprint his own persona on the songs while magnifying what made them brilliant to begin with. To these ends, Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over" gets a gut-wrenchingly minimalist treatment and Radiohead's "High and Dry" comes off as the best Bruce Hornsby song you've never heard. Conversely, Cullum treats jazz standards as modern pop tunes, reworking them into contemporary styles that are neither cynical nor awkward. In fact, his atmospheric, '70s AM pop take on "Singin' in the Rain," replete with string backgrounds and Cullum's percolating Rhodes keyboard, is one of the most appealing cuts on the album, lending the Great American Songbook warhorse an air of virginity.

Customer Reviews

got me hooked

i got this album 2 years ago and it made me one of the biggest Jamie fans in the world! and i didn't even think i would like it that much, but it's a surpriser. gotta luv his standards

jazz for a new generation..

I must be honest, before hearing this album I was somewhat ignorant to the jazz world. Oh how thankful I am to Jamie for introducing me to it. Whilst I couldn't compare his renditions of the historically famous songs he had recorded at first I did fall for the melodies and beautiful sounds. And even after dating back to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and even Julie Andrews and Jeff Buckley, I believe his re-interpretations were respectful, creative and original all at the same time. He has created an original and amazing album with mostly covers, which in my experience seems to be a very difficult thing to do! I have to add that Jamie's own 'Twentysomething', I really think epitomizes his target audience; a young disillusioned youth who want so badly to be able to see the world in a new unique way. This album definitely did that to Jazz for me. Cheers!

Only 5 stars? 10 stars!

Don't compare to, or expect, Sinatra & co. Apples & oranges. Cullum's not supposed to be Sinatra & isn't trying to be anyone but himself. He's edgy. He wears sneakers. He covers Radiohead & Rihanna. He doesn't just sit & politely play the piano: he jumps on it, he pounds it; he caresses it, he seduces it. His energy & his love for music are infectious.
This album will never be replaced in my all-time top five. It is pure brilliance & Cullum is a GENIUS. At the very least, give "These Are The Days" a listen. Love at first note.
And if you ever get the chance to see him live, GO THERE.

Biography

Born: 20 August 1979 in Rochford, Essex, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

British pianist/vocalist Jamie Cullum mixes jazz with melodic pop and rock into a crossover style that calls to mind such artists as Harry Connick, Jr. and Norah Jones. In that vein, Cullum will just as often cover a swinging jazz standard as a modern rock song, and his original compositions deftly move from earnest ballads to songs of sardonic wit. Having played guitar and piano since age eight, Cullum developed an avid interest in jazz passed down from his older brother Ben. Inspired by such...
Full Bio