Jamie Cullum launches Big Audition

To celebrate the launch of “The Big Audition”, jazz singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum played an intimate gig last night at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club.

The triple platinum-selling artist returned to the place that helped kick-start his music career to launch “The Big Audition”, which will see talented hopefuls compete for a £5,000 prize from Barclaycard Freedom to kick-start their music careers. The winner will also be given the chance to follow in the footsteps of Jamie by performing a live gig at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club.

The gig was streamed live on Facebook and took the form of a virtual jukebox, with fans at home tweeting in song requests for Jamie to perform.  Speaking shortly

Jamie in full swing

Jamie in full swing

before his performance, Jamie said: “This audition thing – I’m proud to be a part of it. Hopefully we’ll get someone really good to enter and we’ll discover a great new music talent. My very first gig was at the Pizza Express in Old Street in Swindon.  My dad dropped me off, I didn’t have a car at the time.  I got paid £50, a pizza, and a Peroni. I ended up playing in loads of Pizza Expresses, all around the country –  Kings Road, Uxbridge, St Albans… you name it… there’s a real link with me to this place.”

Accompanied by a five piece band, Jamie then took to the grand piano and started looking through the list of requests.  Even the man who is famed for the improvised nature of his gigs seemed slightly daunted. “This is terrifying – they could literally ask for anything!” he said,  “Do I know Sex on Fire??” he exclaimed, to giggles from the audience.

Requests came in from as far afield as Japan and Brazil. Among the many that were honoured by Jamie were  Seven Nation Army (White Stripes),  Not While I’m Around (Stephen Sondheim), and Don’t Stop the Music (Rihanna) But the most touching moment of the night came when Jamie paid tribute to Amy Winehouse, who passed away last weekend at aged 27.  At the request of many fans who had tweeted him about Amy, he played Love is A Losing Game to a hushed silence from the crowd.  He also spoke about how lucky he felt to have worked with Amy in the past and told some amusing anecdotes of their time together, causing the drummer to blush when it was revealed that Amy had written some graffiti about him in the club declaring he was ‘fit’…

Jamie Cullum with Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot

Jamie Cullum with Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot

The crowd was also treated to an appearance from Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot, who opened the PizzaExpress Jazz Club 40 years ago.

Do you have what it takes? Enter the Big Audition

As Jamie himself says, all it takes is one big break. Upload your video or audio recording to www.pizzaexpress.com/thebigaudition.

Judges will invite the top 50 entrants to perform at live regional heats.

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