Back in 1981, I was visiting a friend who was one of those friends always turning me on to new and different records and sounds. He pulled out two albums to play me. The first one was Peter Gabriel’s fourth album “Security” (the one with “Shock the Monkey”). The second album was “Jumpin’ Jive” by Joe Jackson. It was a desperately different record from Gabriel’s.
I knew Joe Jackson from his 1979 hit “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” and I always thought of him as a “New Wave’ artist much like early Elvis Costello. “Jumpin’ Jive” was a collection of old-style swing and jump blues songs originally performed by Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, Lester Young, and Glenn Miller. It has been suggested that this album anticipated, by fifteen years, the 1990’s “retro-swing revival” that featured bands like Big Band Voodoo Daddy, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was a fan of Louis Jordan. At the time, this was based on one album I owned of his hits. “Jumpin’ Jive” had Jordan songs I had never heard before. The album sent me scurrying out to find more Jordan as well as Cab Calloway, Lester Young and other swing era artists.
Somewhere in the 1990s, in another part of the world (well Toronto), Jim, our sax player, was working the summer shift at Greg’s Ice Cream. Joe Jackson’s “Jumpin Jive” was in steady rotation there. Jim knew the songs from the album well. When we first got together to form the band, the album was a common point of reference. The Eclectic Vinyl Orchestra (EVO) covers three songs from “Jumpin’ Jive”: “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby, “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” and “Tuxedo Junction”. Our arrangements are never complete copies of the originals but every so often I hear a sax line from Jim that I know is from the album and it takes me back. If you get a chance the whole album, its arrangements and its musicianship is worth checking out.
I should note that our version of “Tuxedo Junction” is influenced by the Manhattan Transfer’s version and Joe Jackson. In addition check out our earlier blog on “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.
In 2012, Joe Jackson released his seventeenth studio album “The Duke” which is an interesting collection of Duke Ellington songs. It reached number one on the Billboard Top Jazz Album chart. It included a recording of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing)” which features Iggy Pop. I’ll post the song below. This recording inspired EVO to add the song to our set. We don’t do it anything like his version but it’s still an interesting listen.
He still inspires the band.
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