Cool Blue Jazz
Perhaps it is a bit fitting that for his most recent studio album, Interlude, Jamie Cullum has elected to reach back into the past and cover jazz standards. For a singer/musician who has made his mark on the music industry through playing jazz/pop, a slightly out-of-vogue sound deeply rooted in the past, it only makes sense to spend an album celebrating that history. Over the course of the album, Cullum and his talented crew of backing musicians delve into the diverse range of influences that have guided his sound on previous albums.
It is hard to call this record a “departure” for the British pianist, mainly because it is so firmly rooted in jazz – one of the basic tenants of his sound. There is little of his trademark “pop” to be heard on Interlude, though there are a few exceptions peppered throughout. Instead, the songs rarely stray from the tried-and-true blueprint of the early 20th century jazz originals.
The production and instrumentation on Interlude sounds amazing – Cullum enlisted twenty of his most trusted and talented collaborators, recording the entire album in just three days. Perhaps the most impressive tidbit about this album’s recording process is that every track was done in just one take, giving the album a fun, “loose” vibe that many cover records (particularly jazz-standard cover albums) seem to be lacking. To put it simply, Interlude sounds like a big group of jazz heads hanging out and recording fifteen of their favorite songs.
Cullum handles the vocal throughout the course of Interlude, but there are two exceptions: Laura Mvular appearing on “Good Morning Heartache” and Gregory Porter on first single, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” “Good Morning Heartache” features Cullum and Mvular bouncing sultry vocals off of each other before uniting at the chorus as well as select moments during the verses. Meanwhile, the oft-covered “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” lends some easy recognition for listeners that are unfamiliar with the more obscure jazz tunes the band tackles.
While much of the source material was pulled from vintage-era jazz luminaries such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simon, Cullum does change things up on Interlude with one off-beat cover choice. “The Seer’s Tower” is a captivating cover of a song from Sufjan Stevens’ indie-folk masterpiece Illinois. While hearing the highly talented Cullum give us his take on jazz classics is quite pleasant, it may have made for a bit more interesting listen if he had taken a few more risks with his cover choices like he did for “The Seer’s Tower.”