Jamie Cullum brings his special brand of jazz to Lisbon.jpg

Jamie Cullum brings his special brand of jazz to Lisbon

AT THE tender age of 26, Jamie Cullum is already the UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all time. His 2003 release, twentysomething, propelled him into the limelight, after receiving considerable radio play from BBC Radio Two DJ and chat show host, Michael Parkinson. Since then, he has toured the world, taking his electrifying performances from the muddy fields of Glastonbury to the glitz and glamour of New York.

His modern take on numerous jazz, pop and rock classics has created a unique crossover style that has struck a chord with the mainstream audience. His original compositions have also received acclaim, mirroring artists such as Harry Connick Jr., as he deftly moves from earnest ballads to songs of sardonic wit.

Dubbed ”Sinatra in shoes” by the press, Cullum’s main influences as a young boy were Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck, however, he credits his older brother and session musician, Ben, as being his main musical inspiration. It was he who inspired Jamie to teach himself both guitar and piano at the age of eight, and he continued to spend his teenage years learning any form of music he came across, in particular, jazz. He recorded most of his first album, Heard It All Before, at home, on his computer, and released it in 1999.

It was his second album, Pointless Nostalgic, that caught the media’s attention, in particular the jazz styled cover of Radiohead’s ballad High and Dry. Since then, 2003’s twentysomething and 2005’s Catching Tales have both been massive sellers, receiving widespread approval in the US, Australia and Europe, with the latter release reaching number one in the Mexican charts.

His live show offers a lesson in how to entertain an audience while maintaining musical integrity. Managing to play the piano from every angle imaginable, Cullum performs such classics as Sinatra’s I Get a Kick Out of You and Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. The difference Cullum brings to the new ‘soul-jazz’ scene is the spark of energy he brings to his performances. The tour in support of his twentysomething album saw Cullum leaping about the stage, dancing and drumming on his piano and anything else in sight.

His recent shows in support of the latest release, Catching Tales, has seen a slightly calmer Cullum, however, that air of excitement still seems to emanate from him. In his own words, Cullum describes how “nothing excites me more than something that everyone can enjoy and listen to, that is also musically interesting”. In April of this year, Cullum played to his biggest crowd of 180,000 people in Amsterdam’s Museum Square, in celebration of Queensday.

It is Cullum’s charming and inoffensive demeanour that has won him such widespread critical acclaim, at a time when smooth jazz has been very much in the public eye. It will be a challenge for Cullum to continue selling out tours as the music scene starts to move away from the easy listening craze of the past few years. Fortunately for him, his ability in showmanship should give him a good chance of keeping the crowds entertained. In the words of one Hollywood reporter, Cullum is truly a “one man British invasion”.

• Jamie Cullum plays the Lisbon Coliseu dos Recreios on November 9, at 9pm. Tickets are available through www.ticketline.pt and from most Fnac stores.

by Ruth Sharpe