Since the heady debuting days of stuff like ‘Pointless Nostalgic’, young Jamie Cullum has spread his wings and flown across all kinds of musical genres. Interestingly, for a jazzer, the I-tunes database classifies him under “pop” while recently he worked with people like Rizzle Kicks, Birdy and alternative hip hop group Deltron 3030. For this latest album, though, Jamie goes back to his first love – proper jazz – though it’s proper jazz with a distinct 21st century twist.
You see, through his Radio 2 jazz shows, Jamie became aware of a new kid on the UK alternative jazz block – Ben Lamdin, who works under the name Nostalgia 77. Lamdin and Cullum instantly hit it off and decided to collaborate on an album. Crate diggers, the pair selected a set of less obvious jazz songs, a few rarely heard standards and a neglected Randy Newman song to work on. Within three days and with a live band, they’d cut the lot and the result is an honest, organic music that Cullum clearly enjoyed crafting.
The set’s lead track is a smouldering version of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. To add muscle to the track Jamie drafted in the now ubiquitous Gregory Porter to help out and the pair clearly spark off each other. The album’s other showcase duet is a lush version of Billie Holiday’s ‘Good Morning Heartache’ on which Laura Mvula helps out. She brings her remarkable vocal clarity to the songs and Lamdin’s setting is eerily authentic.
Other tunes include Della Reese’s ‘Don’t You Know’, Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Sack O’ Woe’ and a lovely Vic Damone ballad, ‘My One And Only Love’. Like the cover of Barbra Streisand ‘Make Someone Happy’ it shows that Cullum’s would be right at home on the lounge circuit. The LP boasts a few oddities too. There’s a biblical-referenced ‘Seers Tower’ which was originally recorded by one Sufjan Stevens and a great version of ‘Lovesick Blues’. Originally recorded back in 1922 by Emmett Miller, it’s probably better known in its Hank Williams’ incarnation (Frank Ifield had a 60s hit with it too) but Cullum makes it his own and he clearly had a great time recording this one! Another highlight is a take on Randy Newman’s ‘Losing You’. Clearly a fan of the maestro, Jamie does Randy proud and like everything on the album it shows that Jamie Cullum now realises that nostalgia simply ain’t that pointless.