Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Still Can't Read Music, Not a Note; Jazz Star Reveals He Learned by Ear

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Still Can't Read Music, Not a Note; Jazz Star Reveals He Learned by Ear

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX BILMES

SITTING in Chelsea's Cross Keys pub and sucking at a reinvigorating glass of Red Bull through a straw, Jamie Cullum's messy, slightly medieval mop keeps sinking into his hands which, for a piano player, are small. "I'm so sorry," he says. "It's just that I had a really late night and I started work at seven this morning so I've only had two hours' sleep. It was my album launch but it's my fault because that finished and I should have gone home..." Despite the hangover, he remains helpful and engaged. He knows he needs to do something positive for his new album, Catching Tales. He's oddly mature and focused.

The world seems to be divided on Jamie Cullum with no clear demographic.

Some think he is loved by grannies because he does the "jazz-lite" that only they - and a few lazily tasteless youngsters - can stomach. And some see him as a credible future musical great with a charisma as appealing to the indie teens and jazz aficionados. The first lot won't give him a break - he has yet to win round NME, for example - but his allies are plentiful enough to have bought nearly 2.7 million of his records, making him the best-selling British jazz artist of all time. "I am a jazz musician," he croaks through the hangover, "but I don't always make jazz music. This album is technically a pop album." Cullum, 26, was picked up by Universal in 2003 with a much-talked-about [pounds sterling]1million record contract. He started playing the piano as a child but recalls that "I did it as a school thing, hated it, gave it up.

"I only started again because of the guitar, because I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. I was self-taught on the piano after that because I couldn't read music and I learned everything by ear." He still can't read music. "Not a note."

His childhood was spent in Malmesbury in Wiltshire, but he was born in Essex where his mother and father met at Ford's Dagenham plant; John worked in finance while Yvonne was a secretary. Cullum is often labelled, even heckled, for being posh yet although he eventually attended a private day school in Wiltshire, his background is more exotic than posh. …

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