Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jamie Cullum?

Modern-day purveyors of traditional vocal jazz are a dime a dozen in the new millennium, but British-born Jamie Cullum must surely count as one of the more popular ones, alongside Grammy darling Norah Jones. A friend of mine recently asked me about my opinion of Cullum, so, as a favour to Jen...here's my two cents' worth.

Yes, the A&R suits might position Cullum as the natural successor to neo-trad-jazz Renaissance Man Harry Connick Jr., but shorn of the knowing wit that is a hallmark of most of Connick's works (especially the early-era recordings), Cullum is but an ersatz pretender whose immediate faults are cruelly exposed:

1. Cullum's piano chops are competent enough, but still show up as drearily workmanlike, and containing not an iota of the required fervour or singular technique that comes so easily to some of his idols, like the restlessly inventive Bud Powell or the brilliantly mercurial McCoy Tyner.

2. Too derivative of Randy Newman-esque, satirical humour. While the great Newman has long been established as a giant amongst singer-songwriters, by virtue of an incomparably wicked wit and elliptical songwriting, Cullum falls flat in his half-baked attempts to emulate the same sort of parodic drollness.

3. Cullum's attempts to transpose non-traditional, rock-informed songs in a vocal-jazz mould are academic exercises at best, hardly bringing a sense of innovation or imagination to the proceedings. For lessons on how to do this properly, just listen to some of Brad Mehldau's works. Now, that's a virtuosic pianist who can recreate material from outside the specified boundaries of jazz in endlessly intuitive and cerebral ways.

But then again, these are just spur-of-the-moment, stream-of-consciousness observations, so if any naysayers out there who think otherwise or have any brickbats to hurl...well, you know where to leave comments.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Dear CT. Did you restrain yourself with the bombastic words? It was ok. I could understand it. :-) Now i understand how you comment on the albums/music. Very technical. Very analytic. And you have quite a database there!! Thanks for looking into my request. Blog on...

3:53 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Ng said...

Yes CT...do write from the heart or gut as u put it. What are the songs that move you. Makes you reflect on your life. What are the songs that brings memories - good or bad. Which song you would choose to listen when you are feeling down. Which song would you listen when you are happy? Songs that when you've heard once...keeps repeating in your head ;-) ok i am beginning to ramble. Till next time, Jen.

8:21 PM  

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