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Jamie Cullum On JazzSet

As a child in the U.K., Jamie Cullum was obsessed with music from an early age, grew up with rock and pop and is now a student of jazz. He has just a touch of Sinatra in his voice, and he's all over the piano — under it, inside it, leaping off of it, always in motion, yet totally focused — there's joy in that contradiction.

Here, he tells the audience that they'll be getting some premieres at the Monterey Jazz Festival, rehearsed only the day before, wrapped into a three-piece medley about rejection.

"I thought I'd sing about getting dumped and dumping people, like a suite of music," Cullum says. "I want to start off with one of the great standards, called 'Blame It on My Youth,' which I love very much, a great tune. And then we're going to follow it, segue neatly into a fine artist who I love called Lauryn Hill, and she made a song called 'The Ex Factor,' which is all about what it's like to live near your ex and how you treat each other. And then I'm going to finish the little suite with a tune that I wrote with my bandmates back in England; it's called 'You and Me Are Gone.' The idea is a song that sounds like the theme from The Jungle Book, but it's about a break-up, so check it out."

Other choices come from his albums. Released in 2003, Cullum's autobiographical Twentysomething sold two and a half million copies in just a few months. He released Catching Tales in 2005, toured to support it for a couple years, took time off to DJ and have fun, then recorded his next project. Coming out in March, The Pursuit opens with a track that features the Count Basie Orchestra.

Cullum is so refreshing and entertaining, it seems to mean even more when he slows down and sings a standard.

"People who have seen me play live and read things I've written will already know that I've got a very eclectic taste, but singing a song like 'What a Difference a Day Makes' — well, it is one of the hardest things you can do," Cullum says.

Credits: Our onsite recording engineer is Ron Davis with A Wing & A Prayer. The Monterey Jazz Festival executive director is Tim Jackson.

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Becca Pulliam, JazzSet