Jackson multi-tracks his own voice to create the vocal harmonies over McBride’s throbbing bass line for “I'm Beginning to See the Light/Take the 'A' Train/Cotton Tail.” We also hear Jackson singing old-style on “Mood Indigo,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good),” and “It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing),” where Jackson swaps lines with, of all people, Iggy Pop.
Recorded and mixed by Elliot Scheiner (Steely Dan, Sting, Bob Dylan), the program appropriately has a slick, polished, sophisticated feel from first to last. Jackson didn’t simply take the Duke’s melodies and try to modernize their possibilities. He made every attempt to capture the spirit of Ellington’s lively style, his range and diversity, as well as the Duke’s ability to match performers with material.
As Ellington participated in over 1,000 compositions for over 50 years, bridging jazz, blues, classical, and film scores, perhaps Jackson might consider a second volume. I can think of no one better to make us swing and make it mean something all over again. The Duke is tasty, impressive, and a more than welcome link in the musical legacy of a man who contributed more than his share of American standards.