Album Reviews

Various – In The Mind Of Jamie Cullum

(District 6) UK release date: 27 August 2007

I’m a fond wearer of the cynic’s hat and celebrity endorsed compilations always make me think they’ve been assembled by some faceless music company executive somewhere, rather than culled from the iPod playlists of the rich and famous.

Most of these are simply an excuse to hang together some material that otherwise wouldn’t be welcome on the usual bog standard Various Artists collections. The next celeb to open his Mp3s to public scrutiny is everyone’s favourite jazz hobbit Jamie Cullum. It’s time to see what snakes, snails and puppy dogs tails he is made of with this Back to Mine style excursion…

Jazz is a state of mind and not necessarily tied down to one particular sound and this covers all the bases from be-bop to hip hop, from drum and bass to Herbie Hancock‘s experimental fusion.

Any compilation that starts off with the gorgeous tones of Nina Simone is going to make you sit up and listen and Ms Simone kicks off proceedings wonderfully. It’s clear that this is going to be more chilled and moody than your usual compilation as she is followed by some Brazilian balladry and then some old fashioned crooning from Mark Murphy.

We have Quasimoto‘s distinctive nasal rapping namechecking a plethora of jazz legends, followed hot on the heels by Charles Mingus. There’s trippy Orb like electronica from Laurent Garnier‘s Acid Eiffel and Donovan‘s Get Thy Bearings provides a worthy jazz infused track from the otherwise folky troubadour. As if that wasn’t enough we also have Pharrell Williams, Roots Maunva and Elbow popping up.

The truth is that there’s some very good stuff on here, but it all feels like it’s in the wrong order with no attention paid to the atmosphere it’s supposed to create. Generally chilled, this moves from more traditional jazz to latin, back to jazz again, to rave and then back to jazz, then to hip hop and then back to jazz once more. If all this quantum leaping between genres makes you tired, proceedings conclude with some Gerogorian chanting!

A couple of ‘unreleased’ Cullum tracks are also thrown in. I’d Probably Do It Again is a simple, overlong track, which feels lyrically a bit like a Jazz Lilly Allen. By contrast After You’ve Gone is a short playful ditty. But you get the feeling there’s a reason why these were unreleased and the inclusion of two of his own compositions does smack of ego (either that or record company contractual obligations)

As compilations go this isn’t bad at all, but I’d have like it to have stayed in one place. Kudos to Cullum for venturing into non-traditional territories of jazz, but I’d have loved this more if we had stayed with the Simones and Minguses of this world.

There’s evidently a lot going on in Cullum’s mind and this is easy going stuff to slap on late at night, but ultimately it’s an overlong and forgettable selection, bloated by a few of Cullum’s own minor tracks.

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