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Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit

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Jamie Cullum

Several pianos were blown up to create the striking cover photo for Jamie Cullum’s expertly crafted new album. That none of the music contained on The Pursuit is remotely as explosive is no surprise; this playful English singer and pianist is much better at creating sparks and building things to a steady boil, musically speaking, than he is at detonating. His percolating version of Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” which opens The Pursuit, starts softly, then turns into a brassy romp replete with the current Count Basie Orchestra, an ebullient vocal and an inviting, Monk-inspired keyboard vamp by Cullum. The fetching results demonstrate just how well this eclectic musical chef can cook when all the right ingredients are in place.

Still, it’s disappointing that this dozen-song collection, his fifth studio outing of the past decade, doesn’t strive for some of the same subversive edge as its cover art. This holds especially true given his abiding admiration for the genre-leaping work of the late Frank Zappa. (“I was listening to Frank way before I got into any jazz,” Cullum told this writer in 2006. “Zappa had 10 lifetimes of music to offer.”)

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