HOLLYWOOD -- If imitation is the highest form of flattery, reinterpretation is a close second.
Pharrell Williams was certainly flattered by Jamie Cullum's rendering of "Frontin'," a bonus track on the British jazz singer and pianist's breakthrough album, Twentysomething.
"He heard it and wanted to meet with me," Cullum revealed recently. That meeting led to the Neptunes agreeing to work on Cullum's next album.
The odd pairing is scheduled for March, but in the meantime Cullum has been collaborating with another unlikely producer, Dan the Automator of Gorillaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School fame.
"We sampled some old jazz records and wrote music that I'm playing over it, which no one's ever done, at least not for a while," Cullum said. "He's so knowledgeable about music and just great with samples."
Cullum has written 16 tracks so far and expects the new album to expand even beyond the borders of traditional jazz.
"I'm very influenced by Ray Charles, just the way he brought so much together," Cullum said. "I'm trying to write songs that come as much from a jazz place as they do the kind of poppy stuff I love. There are times where it's sounding as much like Miles Davis as Coldplay or Beyoncé or something like that. It's a real mixture of flavors, and I haven't quite tamed it yet. It's a bit of a mess right now."
Along with "Frontin'," Twentysomething features reinterpretations of Radiohead's "High and Dry" (see [article id="1492235"]"Jazz Singer Jamie Cullum Reinterprets Radiohead"[/article]), Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" and Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over," and Cullum's follow-up should feature more of the same.
"I don't know what's going to make the album, but I've just done 'Highway to Hell' from AC/DC, which is sounding really good," Cullum said. "I did Kings of Leon's 'Molly's Chambers' a bit like 'Fever.' And I've done 'Human Behaviour' from Björk a bit like ['50s jazz singers] the Modern Jazz Quartet."
Cullum plans to work through the spring on the as-yet-untitled release, although he's not "into time tables or that kind of stuff." He will be taking one break to perform April 29 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and April 30 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.