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Album Review: Joe Jackson - The Duke

24 July 2012 | 10:36 am | Ross Clelland

There just should have been a bit more – and/or a bit less – of everything.

The short history lesson, in two parts. 1) Ellington, Duke: Musical genius, composer, arranger, band leader, possible inventor of 'jazz', when that word meant something. 2) Jackson, Joe: New wave Elvis Costello contemporary, before drifting off to his affection for swing and orchestral music – and well-regarded for that, too.

Now, the latter's knowledge of – and obvious affection for – the former should have led to something quite worthy. But this tends to miss more than hit – even allowing the intentions were likely honourable. Problems begin with Iggy Pop mugging his way through It Don't Mean A Thing, which isn't even that original, as Mr Osterberg and Debbie Harry clouted Cole Porter's Well, Did You Eva? in similar style some years back. It's a joke you've heard before.

Cross-cultural references like Perdido (sung in Portuguese) and Caravan (in Farsi, no less) are nice novelties but don't really add anything. And while Jackson has involved some quality fellow travellers – ?uestlove's drumming always on the mark, and Steve Vai twisting his fingers up and down the fretboard in typical 'five notes where one would probably do'-style – most of this seems a little too reliant on the obviously synthetic noises on which most of it is based.

It's not all bad. Jackson's own near-scatting vocal against Regina Carter's Grapelli-esque violin on I'm Beginning To See The Light is rather neat, and Sharon Jones belting I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues is just as stylish as you'd expect from her. There just should have been a bit more – and/or a bit less – of everything.

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