You cannot fence in Jamie Cullum. He is a spunky 26-year-old pianist who infuses the pop tunes he sings with jazz. He pens his own lyrical — and at times witty — songs as well as demonstrates his prowess as a song stylist. His appeal ranges from teenagers to the fiftysomething crowd. And he not only entertains with a plucky panache but also displays heartfelt emotion in his live performances.
As for where Cullum believes he fits in, he shrugs. “I know lots of music, and I like making music for music fans, not for the jazz snobs or the fashion-conscious teenager. I like having the opportunity to cross boundaries,” he says.
On his sophomore Verve Forecast set, “Catching Tales,” the jazz quotient heard on his debut, “Twentysomething,” is more subtle. Cullum cites “Get Your Way,” the album’s first single, as an example of how the project intertwines jazz and pop. It is a catchy midtempo tune — based on a sample of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra’s version of Allen Toussaint’s “Hey Woman, Get out of My Life” — with big-band horns, a soulful swing and a hip-hop feel that Cullum conceived with DJ/producer Dan the Automator.
“This is a middle finger up to those new big-band records,” Cullum says. “Here I’ve got the big band with all its horns, and I’m jamming with the 1968 original. It’s a modern way to sound classic.”