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.
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 5:37 AM