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Joe Jackson - The Duke
Former New Wave Star's Tribute To Jazz Master
Colm O Hare, 23 Aug 2012
He was one of the first UK stars of the post-punk/new wave era, releasing a pair of superb power-pop albums in Look Sharp and I’m The Man, and scoring hit singles along the way with ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’ and ‘It’s Different For Girls.’ But Joe Jackson soon turned his back on pop stardom and over the last three decades has embarked on a multitude of stylistically diverse musical adventures that included jazz and big band (Night & Day, Jumpin’ Jive), reggae (Beat Crazy) and orchestral/piano suites (Will Power.)
This tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington finds Jackson re-interpreting 15 Ellington compositions over ten tracks, with a few surprise guests turning up to help make the party swing. Arranged, produced and performed by Jackson, he also enlists an impressive crew of musicians including several members of The Roots, rock guitar hero Steve Vai and jazz violinist Regina Carter, among others. The musicianship is, of course, impeccable and with source material of this pedigree, it could never be anything other than half-decent. Highlights include ‘I’m Beginning To See The Light/Take The A Train/Cotton Tail’ where under a crawling double bass and punchy drum rhythm, Jackson puts in an impressively intense vocal performance.
Elsewhere, he mellows out on the romantic ‘Mood Indigo’ and croons like a broken-hearted soul on the torchlight ballad ‘I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good’). Sharon Jones, of Dap Kings fame, belts it out on a soulful ‘Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues’, while no less a personage than Mr Iggy Pop shows up for the closing number, one of the Duke’s best known compositions, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’. In a sort of playful call and response manner, Jackson and Pop sing and scat over a mess of samples and instrumental trickery. “It ain’t the melody, it ain’t the music, it’s something else that makes the tune complete”, they croon. In this case, they’re not wrong!