The Duke

The Duke

by Joe Jackson


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Joe Jackson is a sophisticate, and that's his blessing and his curse. Early on in his career, Jackson made it obvious he wanted to be more than just another clever pop songwriter in a skinny tie, and his ambition to experiment with other sounds and textures led to fine and adventurous albums like Night and Day and Big World. Unfortunately, it also resulted in botched orchestral experiments like Will Power and Night Music, and though he's shown a knack for swing-era jazz in his soundtrack work (particularly on his score for Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker: The Man And His Dream), his compulsion to prove he's more than some guy with good hooks truly gets the better of him on 2012's The Duke. The Duke finds Jackson experimenting with the music of Duke Ellington, reinterpreting a number of his compositions in styles that stray far from the original arrangements. In his liner notes, Jackson says "The only thing I tried to avoid was imitating or competing with the master," and while that's admirable as philosophy, his "everything including the kitchen sink" approach to rethinking these great songs doesn't work so well in execution. In an arrangement dominated by electric guitarist Steve Vai, "Isfahan" sounds like a demonstration of some gizmo being sold at Guitar Center, while "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" wrestles with both swing and electronics with no clear victor, and the clunky sounding synthesizers Jackson adds to several numbers make the album sound as if it was recorded in the dire days of the '80s, not a nostalgic effect that favors Ellington's melodies. Jackson has brought some fine musicians to collaborate with him, and Christian McBride's bass, Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson's drumming, and Regina Carter's violin are in fine fettle throughout, while Sussan Deyhim's Farsi translation of "Caravan" is a cleverly exotic touch, and Sharon Jones nails "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues" with guts and panache. But most of the time, Jackson's new arrangements of Ellington's compositions don't serve the songs so much as they betray the arrogance of a musician who wants to show us how he can bring this music into the present day while ignoring many of the qualities that made it timeless. Duke Ellington was a man with remarkable creative ambitions who also understood the virtues of simplicity; Joe Jackson clearly follows his hero in the former category, but the latter lesson has been lost on him, judging from The Duke.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/26/2012
Label: Razor & Tie
UPC: 0793018333320
catalogNumber: 83333
Rank: 139921

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joe Jackson   Primary Artist
Iggy Pop   Vocals
Steve Vai   Guitar,Soloist
Tony Aiello   Piccolo
Regina Carter   Violin
Christian McBride   Bass Guitar,Acoustic Bass
Vinnie Zummo   Guitar,Harmonica,Rhythm Guitar
Dorothy Lawson   Cello
Sharon Jones   Vocals
Lilian Vieira   Vocals
Sussan Deyhim   Vocals
?uestlove   Drums
Stefan Kruger   Percussion,Drums
Cornelius Dufallo   Violin
Ralph Farris   Viola
Stefan Schmid   Synthesizer
"Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson   Sousaphone
Sue Hadjopoulos   Bongos,Conga
Captain Kirk Douglas   Guitar
Papa Jo Jones   Vocals
Mary Rowell   Violin
Kris Ingram Lanzaro   Synthesizer

Technical Credits

Joe Jackson   Arranger,Producer,Liner Notes,Art Direction
Duke Ellington   Composer
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Elliot Scheiner   Engineer
Billy Strayhorn   Composer
Juan Tizol   Composer
Lilian Vieira   translation
Sussan Deyhim   translation
Stefan Kruger   Programming,Engineer
Alfred Figueroa   Engineer
Stefan Schmid   Programming,Engineer
Mike Maska   Management
Ed Sherman   Art Direction
Papa Jo Jones   Drum Samples
Marty Diamond   Booking
Larry Webman   Booking
Kris Ingram Lanzaro   Programming

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