Jamie Cullum on Wynton Marsalis: ”My favourite interview ever”

Hosting his own weekly jazz show, on BBC Radio 2 since 2010, Jamie Cullum has had the opportunity to interview pretty much everyone who matters in jazz that still has a pulse.

Legends including Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal and Dave Brubeck have all stopped by the studio for a chat – as have surprise guests including Sir Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.

But asked which guest left the greatest impression on him, Cullum made an extraordinary choice: Wynton Marsalis.

It simply doesn’t make sense – Marsalis, the ultimate outspoken conservative, who detests all fusions and seems to think jazz’s evolution should have been frozen sometime around 1964; and Cullum, the maddening crossover success who bats no bones about covering Rihanna or Radiohead in the same breath as Cole Porter or Thelonious Monk.

Clearly not the case. Speaking exclusively to The National, ahead of a private concert at the St Regis Dubai, Cullum went as far as to dub Marsalis his “favourite interview ever.”

Here’s Cullum, in full loving praise of Marsalis: “I’ve been a fan of Wynton’s forever. Obviously he’s very outspoken, and has very strong views, and he’s one of the greatest musicians in the world – so he’s potentially quite intimidating. My path has obviously taken me away from the pure building blocks of jazz, across various genres, but I’ve remained a huge fan of his and find him very inspirational. I know everything about him, I’ve read all of his books and heard all of his albums.

“I met him, and I was a little nervous about it actually, but he could not have been nicer, more effusive – and also he knew everything about my career. He was really complimentary, and he saw exactly how I was trying to join the dots between the things that I loved, and put a British perceptive on it.

“I should have known that just by reading his book – he’s an enthusiast, a scholar, he imparts knowledges and enthusiasm, he’s infectious, and actually of course he’s not going to be a misanthrope. Of course. “He was just utterly charming. That was my favourite interview I ever did.”

by Rob Garratt

Listen to Wynton’s interview with Jamie Cullum on BBC (September 27, 2011) Play

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