The Duke

Joe Jackson

Razor & Tie, 2012

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Very few people could pull something like this off. A tribute album, but not in the traditional sense of the word, this serves as a musical tip of the hat to the jazz great Duke Ellington. The Duke reworks 15 Ellington classics in 10 tracks, and does so in an unorthodox fashion by piecing together a kaleidoscope of sounds and textures. If anyone could manage an undertaking like this, it's Joe Jackson. In his 30-plus-year career, the English legend has penned records in nearly every genre of music and possesses a level of creativity that seemingly has no bounds. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Taking aid from more guest instrumentalists and singers than I could keep up with, Jackson brings in notable names such as Iggy Pop, who Jackson takes turns on the mic with on “It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing),” and Sharon Jones, who lends her pipes on the soulful “I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues - Do Nothin' Till.” And of course you can't fail to mention Steve Vai, who contributes guitar work on a disc where guitars often take a back seat to percussion and keyboards.

To say that is an eclectic listen would be doing The Duke a disservice. To say that each track sounds like a different period, band or emanating from a different part of the world would be more accurate. Sure, Jackson's inimitable voice keeps a few of tracks resembling one another, but with nearly a third of the album being instrumentals that range from gentle blues guitar work to rapid piano melodies, and the remainder taking stabs at '50s rock'n'roll, R&B balladry, and synth-based funk, it often sounds like a 'Best Of' disc that spans Jackson's career.

One doesn't necessarily need to be an Ellington fan to enjoy this. Hell, if you only know Jackson from his power-pop days that made him a celebrity, you could find intrigue here. While the idea of an Ellington tribute sans horns would be a disaster for most, Jackson's curious and creative interpretations make for a very atypical listen from an iconoclastic songwriter.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Razor & Tie, and is used for informational purposes only.