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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Jazz star heads for pop charts
Jamie Cullum
Cullum will start recording new material soon

Jamie Cullum, an untrained jazz singer and pianist who has become a sensation after signing a 1m record deal, is set to muscle in on the pop charts.

The 23-year-old, who has been described as "the David Beckham of jazz", will put out singles to compete with pop and rap acts who currently dominate the UK top 40.

Cullum told BBC News Online he wanted to bring jazz up to date and was trying to "expose young people to this music in the right way".

Critics have said he has more pop star appeal than any other jazz musician.

He signed with major label Universal last week and will start recording new material soon.

"I hope that the traditional jazz audience embraces it," he said.

Jamie Cullum
As young people get more and more exposed to it, hopefully they will realise it's not just for old people with beards
Jamie Cullum

"But I am trying to bring it up to date a bit by using a slightly different repertoire and treating it differently, not like a traditional jazz concert."

He said he was "trying to change people's perception of the music" by playing cover versions of rock bands like Radiohead and Nirvana.

He cites Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix as his musical heroes.

"I love pop music, I love rock music, I love jazz music," he said.

"Why jazz suits me so well is because you can import so many styles into it."

He will write his singles with older brother Ben, and he said classic jazz standards only make up about 10% of his repertoire.

'Crazy' interest

The rest is made up of his own compositions, "funk versions of Gershwin songs" and covers of songs like Radiohead's High and Dry.

The press interest in him since his deal has been "crazy", he said.

"I'm coping by just pretending it's Christmas and I've got the best present in the world. I'm not getting very much sleep.

"It really has been building for quite a while. It has the outward appearance of an explosion."

Cullum, from Wiltshire, appeared on Michael Parkinson's chat show on Saturday.

He said the presenter "kind of made my career for me" by recommending him to Universal.

Untrained jazz pianist lands 1m deal
24 Apr 03  |  Entertainment


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