The one-time pop star of Sunday Papers, Look Sharp! and Is She Really Going Out With Him? moved into jazzier territory with his ’82 album Night And Day, and has been unclassifiable ever since.
For The Duke he takes ten of Ellington’s most famous tunes and treats them to new arrangements with acoustic and electric instruments mixing happily. Some are instrumentals, some have guest singers – the Iranian Sussan Deyhim on Caravan, for example – and the accent is on drawing the exotic and worldwide character out of the compositions.
Other guests include jazz bassist Christian McBride, jazz violinist Regina Carter, R ‘n‘ B singer Sharon Jones, prog rock guitarist Steve Vai, members of the The Roots, and even Iggy Pop, who sings – sort of – on It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).
This album might prove only mildly intriguing to Ellington fans, but it might attract a whole new audience to the Duke. Jackson is certainly a sincere fan.