Friday, 6 May 2011

One Man and a Piano

One man and a piano – Jamie Cullum brings Cheltenham Jazz Festival to an audience in 6 countries
Review by Sandra Nicholls-Marcy  
Walking out on to Cheltenham's Jazz Arena stage on Sunday night in the familiar white shirt, black suit and tie, right at the start of the concert Jamie Cullum told us it’s not necessary to make the choice between pop and jazz.  It’s OK to like both – and that’s exactly what we heard.
Whether you were in the cinema or one of the lucky ones at the Arena, you were included.  Jamie seemed to enjoy teasing the cinema audience – from wondering whether we were eating popcorn or clapping  (no to the popcorn by the way but yes to the clapping, even though it did feel a bit odd) to having fun miming lines from “I’m all over it now” so we'd think there was something wrong with the sound.
The live audience weren’t left out – far from it.  They were called on firstly for “Take me out of myself”.  The look on his face at the end seemed to be one of disbelief that he’d managed to pull off performing this half-finished song.  The audience took the horn section in “These are the days” and sounded great on the penultimate song “High and Dry”.
The concert included some of his well-known material – from opening with “I want to be a pop star” to “All at sea” and “Everyone’s lonely”, together with signature piano drumming the opening to “Please don’t stop the music”.  Now a feature of his live show, beatboxing and the loop machine made several appearances, firstly on “You’ve got the love I need” then “The Wind Cries Mary”.
Half a dozen songs in and the shirt, jacket and tie had gone and there he was, just as I remember him a dozen years ago playing in a bar in Manchester – a kid in a t-shirt having fun making noise any way he could with a piano.
He chose one standard “Spring can really hang you up the most”  - a tricky choice that you could see took all his concentration, but the risk paid off and it sounded fresh and new.  The first set closed with a very bluesy “Do you know what it means to Miss New Orleans?”
We were warned there were a couple of songs we probably won’t be hearing again - “I need more pain” and one he described as “as subtle as a breadknife to the skull – “Meet me at the end of the world”.
For me, the two songs to watch out for in the future were “Don’t wait to love” and the new (and as yet) unrecorded “Rayleigh Road”.  Inspired by a family photograph it tells the tale of his family arriving in London from Burma, just off the boat, standing in Trafalgar Square.  They won’t necessarily be recorded for an album but, with trademark storytelling lyrics and  hauntingly beautiful melodies, I hope they are.
He closed the evening with “Gran Torino”,  the beautiful song he put together from original material written by Clint Eastwood.
Was the simulcast a success?  Financially or critically, who knows?  But I’ve saved the last word for someone who was in the cinema audience -  “Awesome!”

Sandra Nicholls-Marcy
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