Jamie Cullum: Collisions of Heart & Mind

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I don’t need a vision, I’m just waiting on collisions of the brain and the heart / I’m patient for decisions and some stormy revelations I can claim from the start.
— Jamie Cullum, “Edge of Something”

“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. . . . Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’re tired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop.”

— Haruki Murakami, “Dance Dance Dance”

In mechanical physics, momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. At a concert, momentum is determined by setlist composition, stage presence, and the mental focus needed to do full justice to the songs. When the elements coalesce, a live performance propels the crowd somewhere sublime. The energy transforms a multitude of concert-goers into a single creature with eyes trained on the stage and heartbeat keeping time with drumbeat — hearing, feeling, breathing, being.

Momentum is also the title of Jamie Cullum’s new album. The English piano player and singer-songwriter sounds bolder than ever, shifting from the jazz-dominated sound of earlier albums to more pop-driven, free-wheeling, heterogeneous creations. Cullum characterizes his latest album as reflective of a crossover period. Though he’s a little bit older, I connect with his sense of liminality, of teetering on the threshold separating childish fantasies and adult responsibilities. That sense pervades Momentum, both in its genre-crossing exploration and in its lyrics about making peace with fickle hopes and dreams, collisions of the brain and the heart, and being a star in limbo.

When Cullum bounded onto the stage at the 9:30 Club last night to deafening cheers, his energy was palpable and his joy infectious. With an impish grin and a toss of his artfully-mussed hair, Cullum launched into an evening of effervescent stylings on piano, employing unconventional techniques like palm-muting and striking out a rhythm on the outer rim. In moments of sheer elation, Cullum clambered onto the Yamaha grand and belted out a few lines before leaping off to grab drumsticks and accompany his bandmates in the percussion section. It was a feast for the senses. Continue reading “Jamie Cullum: Collisions of Heart & Mind”