Jamie Cullum back to jazz for ‘Interlude’ 

click to enlarge Pianist Jamie Cullum’s show on BBC2 radio helped inspire his new record on Blue Note. - COURTESY MCVIRN ETIENNE
  • COURTESY MCVIRN ETIENNE
  • Pianist Jamie Cullum’s show on BBC2 radio helped inspire his new record on Blue Note.
Mop-topped U.K. keyboardist Jamie Cullum gleefully has pinballed through genres over 16 years, starting at jazz, then moving to R&B, hip-hop, alternative and rock. It might explain why Billy Joel chose him to open his last round of arena concerts. But Cullum – who is married to author Roald Dahl’s granddaughter Sophie Dahl, with whom he has two daughters – returned to jazz standards on the new Blue Note CD “Interlude.” Recorded with Nostalgia 77’s Benedic Lamdin, it features cameos from Laura Mvula (“Good Morning Heartache”) and Gregory Porter (“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”). It’s all thanks to his weekly BBC2 radio show.

How did you get your own radio program in 2010?

This British institution Sir Humphrey Lyttelton died after having this radio show forever. And I’d done a few things on radio, presented a couple of documentaries about jazz things. So they said, “Why don’t you just cover for a few weeks while we work out where the jazz program is going next?” And now here I am, four years later. It just gained momentum. Plus, I have a big record collection and a real passion for the music.

How and where is it recorded?

Well, when I’m home in England, I had to train at the BBC to even be allowed to man the desk. So I do it live there, sitting behind the desk and mixing it properly. But when I’m on the road, I have a great mike and I’ll do interviews wherever I am. So the last show I did from my rented apartment in New York City, next week’s will be from my rented house in Santa Monica.

How do you get all your celebrity guests?

That part is pretty easy. Not only because the show has gotten so popular, but in Europe and the UK, I’m very much known as a jazz-world musician, so I know a lot of people already. And I manage to get the message to them, like, “Hey, when you’re in town, come down, spend 20 minutes, and we’ll do an interview and a live session.” So I’ve had Ahmad Jamal drop in, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall.

Have you learned a lot from interviewing your contemporaries?

If it weren’t for my radio show, I don’t think I ever would have made this album. Just having Benedic Lamdin on the show, we realized that we both grew up with electronic music, and we were both passionate about classic jazz, analog tape, and the vinyl scene. So we just booked three days in the studio out of curiosity, just to see what would happen. And in those three days, we made “Interlude.”

IF YOU GO

Jamie Cullum Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 9

Tickets: $58.50

Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

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Tom Lanham

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