English jazz pianist/singer Jamie Cullum first really arrived on the US scene with his 2003 album, Twentysomething. Cullum’s mixture of rock appeal and pop sensibility over a jazz backbone has made him a crossover sensation. His fifth studio album, the Pursuit is no different.
The major weakness I found in The Pursuit were the more rock-influenced songs. While piano-rock bands aren’t plentiful, there certainly are quite a few that come right to mind. The thing that has always been cool about Cullum is that there aren’t many piano playing jazz singers whose main demographic is 18-32 year olds. By opening up to more mainstream music, Cullum can widen his appeal but it also waters down his unique sound. It’s a tricky balance.
“We Run Things” has more of a hip hop influence with a little Ray Charles thrown in for good measure. “Not While I’m Around” is a piano ballad perfectly suited for adult contemporary radio. It sounds like a Five for Fighting song. The album’s first single, “Wheels” is much less jazzy than we are used to hearing from Cullum. The driving drum beat offers little-to-no swing. The track is a little more reminiscent of Coldplay than Cole Porter. But that’s not say that the album doesn’t offer its fair share of jazz. Cullum offers up versions of jazz standards “Just One of Those Things” and “Love for Sale” as well as a jazzy take of Rihanna‘s “Don’t Stop the Music”.
Luckily, The Pursuit is fairly balanced between rock, pop, and jazz allowing for something everyone can like on the album. Although I do not think it is Cullum’s strongest effort, it is a formidable addition to his catalog.