Title - ‘The Duke’ (Razor & Tie)
Artist - Joe Jackson
The Duke, not to be confused with The Thin White Duke (aka David Bowie) is singer/songwriter Joe Jackson's personal musical tribute to the legendary Duke Ellington.
Indeed, rather than emulating the songs' original big-band settings, Jackson filters the material through his own musical imagination while exploring an assortment of unexpected grooves and textures.
The first track, 'Isfahan' is a piano-inspired one trick pony that plinks along, before some lazy, twanging guitar comes to the fore. That track bleeds into 'Caravan,' a cut that picks up the beats and tempos just in time. A brave CD that demonstrates the timeless brilliance of The Duke's classic compositions, whilst at the same time allowing us to experience Joe Jackson's skills as an arranger, instrumentalist and vocal interpreter, The Duke continues with 'I'm Beginning To See The Light - Take The A Train.'
The reason for Jackson being able to reinterpret 15 of Ellington's standards over the course of these 10 tracks is due to this track and others like it. Combining tracks that he thought blended well together, he has done just that. And, for the most part, although a little quirky of a blend sometimes, it actually works. Especially on 'I'm Beginning To See The Light,' as its violin solo midway is incredibly fresh to listen to.
Next up is 'Mood Indigo,' a track dead enough to send anyone to sleep in minutes flat, before the far more upbeat (thankfully) and fun of 'Rockin' In Rhythm' is brought out to play. The blues guitar work of 'I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues - Do Nothin' Till' is next, comeplete with vocals from Sharon Jones that make this track another stand out creation. 'I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)' is a little left of center for my liking, but solid enough as an album cut.
Indeed, this is amazingly only the second time Jackson has recorded an album not comprised of his own compositions! And it's very obvious that The Duke is a deeply personal project for Jackson, whose longstanding affinity for Ellington's pioneering spirit has served as a key inspiration throughout his own three-decades-plus career.
Featuring other guest turns by the likes of Iggy Pop, drummer Ahmir '?uestlove' Thompson and other members of The Roots, and Steve Vai, the album heads towards the finish line with a latin-flavored 'Perdido - Satin Doll,' then comes both 'The Mooche - Black And Tan Fantasy' (the latter accompanied by some old-fashioned organ pipe work and accordion), and then the uber Ellington song, 'It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing),' brought kicking and screaming into 2012!