Album Reviews

Jamie Cullum – The Pursuit

(Decca) UK release date: 9 November 2009

Do not be fooled by The Pursuit’s packshot. Althoughreminiscent of the same disrespect for the ivories shown by Faith NoMore in their video for Epic, Jamie Cullum has not gone the way offunk metal.

A hundred surly faces atop the most formal garb,appearing disinterested in a thousand exploding pianos, would not beable to mask the nature of Jamie Cullum’s latest work. Try as hemay to dissuade you visually following his hiatus, the boisterous scamp has not, in fact, jettisoned the style nor the habitsthat have lured the masses to his particular brand of music for something like a decade.

Quite the contrary, actually, for this album once again combines avariety of original and covered material, the latter of which has nocollective regard for genre nor era, in Cullum’s playful, jazz/popblender.

In terms of style, sound, subject matter and, at times,execution, The Pursuit is all over the map. It opens grandly with a loan from the Cole Portersongbook. Just One Of Those Things, a selection from the musicalJubilee, is retooled by Cullum in extravagant fashion – big-bandrhythm and brass squeals, a smooth, Coltrane-esque saxophonesolo and Cullum’s impressive improvisation and raspy vocals do wellto break the four-year-old ice grandly.

Later, Cullum borrows a cut from Sweeney Todd, his knack for balladeering on displayin Stephen Sondheim‘s tender Not While I’m Around. By now it’s obvious that, with topics ranging from one-night stands to genuinely sweet andloving promises, it’s best to not commit to any singular mood while listening to this album.

The Pursuit’s strong closer is atraditionally bass-thumping entry in a dance club DJ’s set list.Cullum had extra beats on hand, whollyextracted from Rihanna‘s Please Don’t Stop The Music to createa fresh, jazzy revamp of the pop hit. The fantastically swingin’ YouAnd Me Are Gone, complete with hand claps and a nifty insertion of”modus operandi” into the lyrics, also represents magpie Cullum’s talents well.

But the variety is not reserved for the dizzying array ofstyles and themes; quality is mercurial too.Avoidable tracks include the ultra-sappy and sluggish If I Ruled TheWorld and Mixtape, an awkward combination of disco and jazz in whichCullum’s eclectic music tastes are highlighted.

Although he’s spent time away to pursue other musical endeavors,embark on a friendship with gruff acting legend Clint Eastwood andmeet supermodel ladyfriend Sophie Dahl, musically Jamie Cullum returns to hislisteners where he left off. His ‘modus operandi’, if you will, remains the same, and his angry, violent posturing is surely tomfoolery.

Although not technically the twentysomething that caughtour attention during the onset of the noughties, with The Pursuit Cullum continues topursue favour by instilling his blend of poppy jazz in anything thatstrikes his fancy.

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