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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Nellie McKay

For much of the summer, the Delacorte is home to the Public Theater’s wildly popular Shakespeare in the Park. This year, the outdoor theatre stayed open past final call for a two-week concert series presented by the Public’s plush music room, Joe’s Pub, with corporate support from MTV2 and VH1. Befitting both the setting and the sponsors, “Joe’s Pub in the Park” featured artists who balance mainstream appeal with hipster cred. On this evening, the resulting concert was a study in contrasts — and a glimpse at some fresh possibilities for a backward-glancing jazz-vocal field.

Whether Jamie Cullum, Nellie McKay and Raul Midon are jazz singers, technically speaking, is a debate better left to semanticists. There’s no disputing the fact that jazz has shaped each artist’s sensibilities, even as they blend in aspects of pop, cabaret, hip-hop, rock and soul. Effortless eclecticism is an honest hallmark of their generation — all three grew up in an era shaped by the aesthetic and argot of Music Television. Never mind that McKay seems to regard TV as an anthropological curio, and Midón is blind. Cullum makes up for both of them: At the time of this show, he could also be seen guest-hosting VH1’s Top 20 Countdown, where the video for his sensitive-loner anthem “All at Sea” held a position at number 11.

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