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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 09:32 GMT
Cullum gives it all that jazz

By Mike Smartt
BBC News Online

Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum: 1m signing and jazz prodigy

Self-taught pianist Jamie Cullum releases his first album since he landed one of the biggest jazz record deals in history - a 1m contract with Universal.

Twenty-something jazz superstars - especially British ones - are as rare as snow in the Sahara.

Record companies rarely spend much on promoting jazz, assuming the audience is discerning enough to make up its own mind.

And as it is still a minority interest, there is scant return on what little investment there is.

But one young man from Wiltshire might just be about to change all that.

Million-pound deal

Jamie Cullum, at 23 hardly out of nappies in jazz terms, signed a 1m record deal earlier this year.

For his album Twentysomething, the man at the controls is Stewart Levine, who has produced BB King and George Benson among others. And it really pays dividends here.

So is young Cullum as good as all the hype?

Jamie Cullum
23-year-old Cullum is a "sensational" piano player
Just one listen to Twentysomething suggests he most certainly is. Subsequent playings only confirm it.

You assume from his voice that he has been playing smoke-filled jazz clubs for years.

What sorts the men from the boys in jazz is phrasing and performance - and Jamie's is inventive and accomplished.

Many have compared Cullum with Harry Connick Jr. But there is also a touch of Randy Newman here, mixed with a dose of Sting and a sprinkling of latter-day Georgie Fame - which is not bad for starters.

Twentysomething features a good helping of standards and some originals from the pen of Cullum and brother Ben.

'Beautiful support'

The former are stronger as you would expect, though the newer material does not lack quality.

I Get A Kick Out Of You gets a good makeover, and there is a powerful new setting for I Could Have Danced All Night.

There's almost a lifetime of music still to come from Jamie Cullum
My favourite is a version of Singing In The Rain, which squeezes something extra from one of the greatest melodies of all time.

The other musicians give beautifully-produced support. Oh and did I not mention? Cullum plays piano sensationally too.

This is the artist's first professionally put-together record after two self-financed attempts.

And the good thing is, there is still almost a lifetime of music to come from Jamie Cullum.

Twentysomething is out now on Universal Records

So what do you think? Is Jamie Cullum worth all the hype? Or were you underwhelmed?

This debate is now closed. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

I bought this album after Amazon suggested it, having never heard of the guy...and I am not disappointed. Twentysomething, the title track, is really catchy... and Jamie's voice is as stated, very much older and wiser sounding than his years.
Richard, UK

Twentysomething is a brilliant follow up to Pointless Nostalgic. I think it's so refreshing to see someone with real talent with both amazing vocals, a unique style and real songwriting ability. All At Sea has got to be one of the best tracks all round, although his version of Blame It On My Youth is one of the most poignant tracks I've ever heard. This is what people should be listening to rather than this mass market contrived pop and he deserves to sell millions!
Laura Williams, UK

Jamie Cullum is the real thing. I saw him down at HMV and he was sensational - a genuinely captivating performer. This album is awesome - loads of variety, some killer ballads, masses of energy and some superb originals too. I can see a long long future ahead of Jamie.
Tom Hayes, UK

I agree with Sally and am glad someone else recognises that this is cheesy pop from someone that can actually play!

I saw Jamie Cullum live a week before I read about his million pound deal on BBC News. At the time I had never even heard of him, and, unaffected by the hype, I left after his first set.

True, he has a very strong voice and can certainly tinkle on the old ivories compared to your average chart topping pop star... but not anywhere near to the standard that I would expect to hear at a top jazz gig.

In response to the BBC comment "the other musicians give beautifully-produced support" - well he must have a different sax player from when I saw him with?!

I say very good luck to Jamie Cullum, he is obviously a very talented man. But I have to agree, again, with Sally, it is a bit of insult to the many great British jazz musicians out there who are pushing the genre to new depths, rather than repeating what has been said before, many times. Pushing boundaries is, after all, what jazz is all about!
Howard King, UK

I just saw Jamie perform on Parkinson, and he was fabulous. This isn't usually the kind of music I like, but I will be buying the album a.s.a.p!
Kate, UK

This is a real feel good, fun album, I love All at Sea and I Could Have Danced best. Great stuff. We are going to see him live in Manchester in a few weeks, and I can't wait.
Sarah, UK

The most important British album to emerge this century. GENIUS!
Mark Emms, UK

A really perfect album, with just the right amount of laid back grooves. I would recommend it for anyone! Plus the fact that Jamie is drop dead gorgeous, and a really nice guy... you can't help but love him! I know for sure I'll be listening to it over and over again...
Caroline Mason-Rietveld, UK

I certainly think Jamie is worth all the hype. There is bound to be criticism from staunch "jazzers" who believe that Jamie's album is too mainstream, but with all their moaning and groaning about keeping jazz "real", they're actually missing the point - that this is a great album, however you categorise it.
Laura Peters, UK

Saw Jamie in Leeds, as this guy is gonna be big! He's done a great cover of Radiohead's High and Dry and is the next big thing to hit the music scene. His whole genre of music is both young and fresh. Rock on Jamie!
Mannie, UK

Fantastic. His last album was very good and this is even better. Amazing voice and great composition. Everyone should go out of their way to listen to this stars new album, they won't be disappointed.
Mark, UK

It's lightweight rubbish for those who are afraid of real jazz but want to think they're hip. There's nothing new or exciting here, just a load of hype - an insult to genuine hard-working British jazzers with original talent who slog day in, day out with no mainstream recongnition when they are in fact creating fantastic, challenging, original and in many cases dangerous music.
Sally, UK

I have to say this is a great album. This guy has an unbelievable voice for a 23 year old - he sounds like he's been doing the jazz club circuit for decades. Great new spins on old classics and the orignal songs are top value. Highly recommended
Paul Trevillian, UK

I saw Jamie perform at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh and he was just fantastic. A very charismatic performer with lots of energy. What a great night! Can't wait to see him again at King Tuts.

Both albums are wonderful - I just wish that he had added his own version of The Doors "Light My Fire" to Twentysomething - it was sensational!
Amanda, Scotland

GO BUY THIS ALBUM!!! I have seen Jamie three times and he gets better every time. He is a born performer and his enthusiasm for Jazz is infectious. I am counting the days until I see him at the Festival Hall next month. If you get the chance to see him - Go!
Jordana Chapman, UK

I saw Jamie perform at the Oak Room in New York City on 10 October, and he was fabulous. He's not only very talented, he's also a good showman. I could have sat listening to him for hours.
G Salupo USA

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