CD: Twentysomething (verve)

Although he’s only 24, Jamie Cullum, a strapping young jazz pop musician from the U.K., is no babe when it comes to success. In his native England, he is a double-platinum-selling artist, and his sophomore album, Twentysomething, has already sold 300,000 copies six weeks after its release in the U.K.

But what makes Cullum so different from the other jazz artists out there is the reckless abandon with which he approaches his craft. A performance at South by Southwest in Austin had him strolling through the crowd, singing and clapping, before sprinting back to the piano and pouncing on the keys. If his piano were an amp, it would be set on 11.

For his final number, a sort of dance-mix version of “I Could Have Danced All Night,” Cullum performed the intro while lying on his back beneath the piano, tapping on the instrument’s underbelly with his hands before moving around to the keys. We could have listened to this guy perform all night, and still we would have begged for more.

If you can’t catch him live, you can enjoy his intricate and distinct piano play on Twentysomething. The 14 songs flow perfectly between originals and interpretations of well-known numbers without skipping a beat. Case in point: Cullum takes an already amazing song (Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary”) into an equally stellar jazz vibe that leads into one of his own, the ready-for-radio “All At Sea.”
— James E. Mayfield