Monday, June 25, 2012

Edward K. & Joseph J.

If "The Duke," Joe Jackson's new collection of Ellingtonia was presented to me as a new record from just about anyone else, I don't know if I would have even bothered to listen. The fact is, when I read about this a few months ago, I rolled my eyes so hard I dented my scalp. Joe Jackson duets with Iggy Pop and Sharon Jones on Duke Ellington songs? Who needs this?

But the fact remains, Duke Ellington is my favorite jazz composer and J.J.'s forays into foreign musical waters have mostly been successful. Maybe you're still not over "Jumping Jive," or the Nuyorican sounds of "Night & Day" and "Body & Soul" after becoming a fan of the pop-punk of Jackson's opening trilogy. But you can't deny that Joe Jackson understands the music. He's listened to and performed jazz and classical music long before banging out his new wave angst. I'm a fan so I had to listen. I'm happy I did. It works...mostly.

This is the "Night & Day/Body & Soul" Joe tackling some of the most famous songs in the American songbook. "Caravan" is as it should be musically, with pulsing Latin rhythms, though I'm not sure if Iranian vocalist Sussan Deyhim singing the lyrics in Farsi works as well as Joe may think it does. The medley of "Perdido" and Satin Doll" fares much better with Brazilian singer Lilian Viera, as does a beautifully melancholy take on "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" delivered by the man himself.

Sharon Jones helps turn "I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues" into James Brown's "Night Train." Meh. Vinny Zummo, the brilliant guitarist who was all over "Body & Soul" adds some inspired fretwork throughout, but especially on both "The Mooche" and the gorgeous opener, "Isfahan." What a tone! As for the Joe/Iggy duet on "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"? It swings, damn it!

The missteps...a drum machine here, a synthesizer there...are minor. If you're a purist, you won't be bothering with this anyway. But if you're a fan of both Duke Ellington and Joe Jackson, this is a wonderful surprise.

It is out tomorrow, so get it wherever you get music these days.


Albert said...

This sounds absolutely, irrevocably "not up my alley"....primarily your mentioning of guest vocals seals that deal...what I will do is hope iTunes bothers to carry this and I'll purchase anything Joe actually sings himself....and as usual, thanks for the head's up....

steves said...

Meh. I'm not nearly as impressed with Jackson as he is with himself.

wardo said...

I've yet to read or be told that I "have to hear this album", so I'm going to wait. Besides, I'm still not tired of "Rain".

soundsource said...

upon seeing this release I too rolled mine eyes and passed on the free download as well but based on your assessment I will give it a listen.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm with steves on Joe

I thought "Night and Day" was pretty cool, but "Jumping Jive" quite irritating.
If you post a tune as the song of the day, I'll listen to it.

jeff k said...

There was a time, maybe a hundred years ago, when if you were walking around midtown, it seemed like every shop was playing Isaac Hayes's Theme from Shaft. I can't remember any other song from my generation that captured the vibe of the city so perfectly.

A few years later Joe Jackson came close when it seemed like you couldn't walk ten feet without hearing "Steppin' Out" and it was the perfect soundtrack to a night of living and being in Manhattan.

So I give Joe leeway. He gets a little less though from me, as I still remember one of his Central Park concerts in the early 80s. It was hot as hell. He was drinking a cold bottle of gatorade on the stage and then decided to torture the people up front with, essentially saying, "I'm drinking this, and I'm on cooling off and you're not."Then he asked them if they wanted some. They all started screaming yes, and so he turned over the bottle and dumped it all over them.

Fuck him, but I'll still give the cd a listen because, hey, the guy's done it before. And it's my second favorite New York Duke.

Anonymous said...

Hello please, remain seated.

Wow, Sal. This is a tough ask. Isfahan without Johnny Hodges? wow...dunno...I suppose I COULD...but I fear it. I fear it mightily.

For those who have never heard the song Isfahan, Hodges was known as having supremely sweet tone. And this song ranks at or near the top of his amazing body of work with Ellington (IMO, YMMV):
Here's the original, courtesy of youtube:

BTW...speaking of Joe Jackson. Do any of you listen to the NPR program The Moth? It's a terrific storytelling program and Joe was on it some years back telling a great tale of the Admiral Drake pub, where he worked before he got, well just listen:!/s/The+Admiral+Drake/24v2yt?src=5

Sal, feel free to scold me for hijacking the thread. I'm a bad man.


Anonymous said...

I'll be listening to this. Like Elvis Costello, Mr. Jackson--as you point out--has traveled far from his initial style, and also like EC he's always worth keeping an eye on (an ear open for?) even if not every venture is a success.

A year or so ago, I found "A Cure for Gravity," Mr. Jackson's autobiography-slash-musings on music remaindered for a couple of dollars. I enjoyed it a lot.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sal,
Always good to see your blog.
A typo in one of your lists.. It is 'Good Times' by the Easybeats, not Godd Times. man they were an amazing band. I'm not just sayings that because they are Australian.
They were amazing. I saw them in 1966 in Adelaide. They blew the house down. They then left for England an recorded their number one, 'Friday on My Mind'. Stevie, the singer was one of the world greats. I've met him and seen him several times. Check out the Easybeats on you tube...amazing.