Duke Ellington, one of the most celebrated Big Band era names of all time, is being celebrated this month with the release of a tribute CD by none other than 5-time Grammy nominee, Joe Jackson. Jackson, known for singles such as “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” sought to create an album to honor the famed composer, while creating a flow of his own, much like the improvisational style the Big Band leaders of Ellington’s day were familiar with.
The CD, so named “The Duke,” is sure to do the composer/pianist justice, especially considering it also features the talents of The Roots, ?uestLove, and Sharon Jones. However, the most notable song on the album, released this week for preview by Rolling Stones, comes from the duet with Iggy Pop on the track “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing).
One of the most remembered songs of the period, “It Don’t Mean A Thing” was composed by Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills in 1931 and is credited for first using the term “swing” and thus naming the period. The song was, according to Duke, a representation of the sentimental attachment to the music of jazz performers at the time. It has since then been covered by many talented artists including Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and Thelonious Monk.
Joe Jackson has brought new life to this classic tune, bringing in punk rock innovator Iggy Pop to help. Jackson has definitely revitalized what once was, by bringing back the often forgotten first verse of the song coming before the iconic chorus. Jackson believed his voice was not resonating or deep enough to truthfully sing the soothing low tones found in the song, which led him to find a perfect fit in Iggy. The song does not rely on a Big Band orchestral background, but a more uniquely constructed mix of instruments that add a light and airy feeling.
Though the song has just been recently released and not critiqued yet, I think it’s safe to say that they have done The Duke the justice he deserves while preserving their reputations of individuality.
Joe Jackson & Iggy Pop, It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) [DOWNLOAD]