As the unofficial godfather of hepcat nostalgia, Joe Jackson has always had a jazzy lilt in his step, right down to the shiny white arrow-tipped shoes he wore on the cover of his 1979 debut, Look Sharp! Sure, he was born in Staffordshire, England, and got his first taste of American radio fame with a little new-wave gem called “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” But musical statements like 1981’s Jumpin’ Jive made it clear that Jackson holds the kings of swing—Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Skeets Tolbert among them—near and dear to his heart.
He reaffirmed that devotion with this summer’s The Duke, an irreverently synth-driven, fusion-style tribute to Duke Ellington with guest shots from Sharon Jones, Steve Vai, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Iggy Pop (yes, Iggy Pop). “I figured it was okay to do whatever the hell I wanted to,” Jackson told NPR’s David Dye in July. “No matter what I did to Duke Ellington’s music, however good or bad, it was not gonna make the slightest bit of difference to his reputation.”
That said, Jackson means to burnish his own rep with a lively pair of weekend dates at the Town Hall. Sparked by a six-piece band that features jazz violinist Regina Carter, he’ll show off The Duke, while also looking back at a recording career that spans more than 30 years and a dozen albums.—Bill Murphy
Follow Bill Murphy on Twitter: @RoninScribe