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Interlude (2015)

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Jamie Cullum

The intent behind Jamie Cullum's seventh album, Interlude -- released in the U.K. in 2014, with a U.S. release in 2015 -- is to strongly reconnect the singer/pianist with his jazz roots. Gone are the flirtations with electronics, along with original material: Cullum is playing live with a jazz orchestra, singing standards that are familiar but not shopworn. He expands the songbook so there's room for Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" and the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," but his playbook is straight out of Ray Charles. He's growling and crooning as he alternately pounds and tinkles his piano, giving plenty of space for the orchestra to surge but not allowing a lot of room for improvisation. Most of the songs here clock in somewhere between three and four minutes, which is a strong indication that this album lies toward the pop end of the jazz spectrum. This is by no means a bad thing. By devoting himself to a strong book of standards and recording with a live big band, Cullum seems reinvigorated. He's enjoying tearing into these old tunes and that excitement isn't merely palpable, it's contagious.