Cullum shows himself here to be much deeper and broader than we may perhaps have given...
Paul Sullivan 2007
Of all the ‘crossover’ starlets on the market today, Jamie Cullum is probably one of the most convincing.
Whether you dig his smooth, accessible schtick or not, there’s no denying his diverse musical knowledge and creative performance style, which famously involves him beatboxing, improvising songs and covering everyone from The White Stripes to Kanye West alongside his own material.
In The Mind Of… - a new compilation series developed by District 6 - seeks to explore the alternative musical tastes of well-known figures; Cullum’s highly personal selection echoes the inaugural set by Flamenco guitarist, soundtrack composer and songwriter Nitin Sawnhey by taking a similarly meandering and ‘hip’ approach.
Nina Simone kicks things off with her sultry and emotive take on Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”; Black Orfeus composer and bossa nova legend Luiz Bonfa appears with his classic “Perdido de Amor”; while jazz singer du jour Mark Murphy adds some swing with “Stolen Moments”.
But the album soon deviates from these anticipated jazz standards. The well-worn “Get Thy Bearings” by Donovan gets an airing; Midwest renegades The Bad Plus bring the gorgeous “Flim”; and the amiable drone of Elbow’s “Station Approach” comes as a total – if poignant - surprise.
In case you doubted Cullum’s urban credentials, there are no less than three hip hop cuts here: Madlib’s roaming tribute to the giants of jazz (“Jazz Cats Pt 1”), Cinematic Orchestra’s “All Things To All Men” (featuring Roots Manuva), and “Mr. Me Too” by Clipse.
Cullum seems savvy when it comes to dance music too. “Acid Eiffel” showcases the squiggly, jazz-techno of Bugge Wesseltoft and Laurent Garnier; Reprazent’s eternally fresh “Brown Paper Bag” gets an airing; and instead of any old Herbie Hancock tune, we get “Nobu”, a proto glitch track sometimes referred to as one of the first ever examples of techno.
Amidst this trendy tapestry, Cullum finds room for a couple of his own numbers. The sparse, summery jam “I’d Probably Do It Again” puts a decidedly contemporary twist on romance, and is as amusing as it is odd. The shorter “After You’ve Gone” has a more classic feel with some seriously classy jazz guitar.
Rounding the album off with the stunning “Sleep” by British choral vocal assembly Polyphony, Cullum shows himself here to be much deeper and broader than we may perhaps have given him credit for, turning in a stellar mix in the process.