(Ronnie Scott’s. 17th September 2014. First house, first night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
History lesson. In January 2010, BBC Radio 2 Controller Lewis Carnie accepted an invitation to speak at a very tetchy public debate on the Jazz and the BBC. At that meeting, he made an announcement which we reported HERE:
“Jamie Cullum will take over the 7pm slot on Tuesdays on Radio 2 from April 7th.”
In theory, Cullum’s weekly radio show might have lasted just a few weeks, but it has continued. It has built its audience, and is now extensively syndicated overseas. Doing the show every week has dictated the music Cullum listens to – a lot more jazz – and the people he meets and talks about music with, for the show. Two direct consequences have been a new album, Interlude, and a tour this autumn of of jazz clubs in London, New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam…
I interviewed him yesterday, we’ll have more about the thinking behind it, and the people involved – notably Ben Lamdin – but the results as seen in Ronnie Scott’s last night were fabulous. I don’t believe a single person can have walked away from that show without being completely won over, heart-warmed, and energized.
One could try to analyze what and how it is that Jamie Cullum connects with audiences – down-to-earth, endearing reticence? sincerity? not trying to be someone he isn’t? – but the plain fact is that he works at it, he delivers and he does, whether it’s a crowd of 55,000 in San Sebastian, or just over 200 of us last night.
The performance trademarks and the singing/songwriting side are not forgotten. Towards the end of the set came the the obligatory leap from the Yamaha piano in When I get Famous, the fast hand-clapping and pogo-ing in Mixtape. Nevertheless, there is a deliberate attempt to connect an audience to great songs, to classic performances. “We ripped it” was an unashamed reference to the Tony Bennett/ Bill Evans version of Make Someone Happy, performed as a duo with Jason Rebello. Cullum also had a fabulous band on display, led by Tom Richards – hat-tip for some fine arrangements – with top-notch people in every section. The lower end of the sound spectrum was particularly impressive, with James Allsopp fluent and strong on both bass clarinet and baritone sax, and the authoritative huge boss sound of Mark Frost on bass trombone definitely stays in my ear this morning.
The show is not slavish album recreation. On the album Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is a delightful duet with Gregory Porter in which two gentle nice-guys vie for the attention of the same girl by being kinder-than-you. As a solo song, it was sassier and far more urgent.
A clear by-product of the power and reach of Jamie Cullum’s Radio 2 Programme is that it can raise the profile for UK artists. Natalie Williams, who gave the early set, acknowledged the support Jamie had given her. She mostly sang songs from last year’s Kickstarter-funded album Where You Are. She also performed one characterful and completely new song Little Did I Know which showed off a powerful and gravelly basso register which certainly took me by surprise. More please. Jobim’s Waters of March had her trio of Phil Peskett Rob Mullarkey and James Maddren enjoying the cross-rhythms. It was then on to more familiar Soul Family territory for Jealous Guy with a lively funky bass solo.
Sack O’ Woe
Don’t Stop the Music
Don’t let me be misunderstood
Good Morning Heartache
Don’t You Know
Losing You (Randy Newman)
You and Me are Gone
When I Get Famous
Make Someone Happy
Jamie Cullum – piano/vocals
Tom Richards – Sax/keys/vocals
Rory Simmons – Trumpet/guitar
Brad Webb – drums/vocals
Loz Garratt – bass/vocals
Tom Walsh, Tom Rees-Roberts, Fulvio Sigurta (trumpets)
Barnaby Dickinson, Neil Sidwell, TomWhite , Mark Frost (trombones)
Simon Allen, Claire McInerney, Tom Challenger, James Allsop (reeds/saxes)
Jason Rebello (piano/guest)
INTERLUDE (Island Records) is released in the UK on October 6th