If you were to call Gregory Porter perhaps jazz’s greatest gentleman, Jamie Cullum would be the genre’s greatest rock star by far. And that despite the fact that the 43-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is not really a pure jazz musician, but prefers to combine a wide variety of styles, songs and musical genres, from swing of the 1920s to chart pop music by Rihanna or Ed Sheeran. At a concert in front of well over a thousand people in Berlin’s Tempodrom, he demonstrated how effortlessly he manages to do this. Right at the beginning he uses two of his typically untypical songs, beginning alone on the grand piano with the melancholic “The Age Of Anxiety” and then switching to the anthemic “Taller”, the composition that gave the album its name. Cullum’s clear message: he wishes, in a figurative sense, to be bigger, to grow beyond himself with the help of music and thus to get closer to others.
“I wish I was taller” he smashes into the hall, the band joins in, two big backing vocals soon fill the space behind his voice as only a whole gospel choir can – and before you know it, it jumps Brite and microphone first get up from the piano stool, then over his instrument and start to demolish the stage almost musically on his own. The brass section doesn’t need to be told twice: It’s not a big band, it actually only consists of saxophone and trumpet, but who cares if two musicians ‘throw in’ so soundly that you think it’s not two, but rather twenty instruments to hear.
Just when you think it can’t get any heavier, louder – Cullum fluently shifts from rock/pop to Latin rhythms. With a perfect-sounding quintet, he swings coolly into the Cole Porter standard “I Get A Kick Out Of You” (a piece he first played in Berlin when he was 21) and dismisses one band member after the other the stage to become more and more intimate, more concentrated. The concert, however, does not lose any of its tonal density. On the contrary. And so Cullum continues to play standing up more often than sitting down, treating the grand piano less like a piano and more like an electric guitar, beatboxing with the lid, plucking percussively on all strings, in short: enthusiastically wherever he can , especially with “Berlin”, a musical declaration of love for the city. “Here is my love for Berlin” he exclaims and shortly thereafter invites everyone to dance with “We’ve waited two and a half years for this”. The hall trembles: screaming, roaring, stomping and raging – you don’t know that from jazz these days. But very well by Jamie Cullum.