Five-time Grammy nominee Joe Jackson began his career in the fertile late 1970s new wave scene scoring hits with “Is She Really Going Out With Him” (1979), “Steppin’ Out” (1982), and “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” (1984). Early on the English singer-songwriter was positioned alongside Elvis Costello and Graham Parker as pioneering artists cultivating a sophisticated pop-infused successor to punk before Joe Jackson distinguished himself by delving into jazz and classical music.
The smart hooks of 1979’s Look Sharp! (A&M)—punk euphoria tempered by a uniquely rich harmonic depth—would be his big break; the album boasted his first single “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” and quickly went gold. But Jackson hit his stride with the refined pop of 1982’s Night And Day (A&M). It was a tip of the fedora to Gershwin, Cole Porter, and the classic American songbook. With tunes like “Real Men” about 1980s NYC gay culture and the charting “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us In Two”, it was both progressive and populistic. The album hit #4 in the U.S. and became a template for his later work—crisp, catchy, jazz-informed tunes with lyrics that balanced wry wit with vulnerability. His next release, 1984’s Body And Soul (A&M), featuring the buoyant ““You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want),” further mined this richly soulful songcraft. The album’s cover was a play on the classic monochromatic Blue Note Records aesthetic and the music celebrated the label’s trademark post-bop groove within Jackson’s infectious compositional sense. Another highpoint occurred in 1999 when Jackson set his sights on classical music, signed with Sony Classical, and won a Grammy for his Symphony No. 1 release.
While his career trajectory has been admirably introspective and “music first,” his impact has been widespread. The thrash band Anthrax covered “Got The Time,” Tori Amos covered “Real Men,” the pop-rock band Sugar Ray covered “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” jazz singer Kurt Elling covered “Steppin' Out,” and Inara George of the Bird and the Bee covered “Fools In Love.” His career-spanning live records put into perspective the scope of his career and tie all the music together with one Joe Jackson constant—his devotion to jazz and it’s playfully mercurial nature. Besides Joe’s first live album, Big World (1986)—which he went without a net and recorded - - right in front of an audience— the live-album medium has been a forum for him to revisit and reimagine his catalog.
His latest Live Music will be released June 7th on the NYC-based indie Razor & Tie. It’s an elegant trio outing featuring longtime Joe Jackson Band collaborators Graham Maby (bass/vocals) and Dave Houghton (drums/vocals) opening up chestnuts like Night and Day’s “Another World” and Look Sharp’s “Sunday Papers,” as well as evergreens like “Steppin’ Out” and “Got The Time.” Joe throws in a few surprises, an achingly gorgeous piano and voice version of the Beatles’ “Girl,” a reverent version of Ian Dury’s “Inbetweenies” with a crystalline piano solo, and a playful go at David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters.” Joe’s method of operation is fastidious in the studio and liberated onstage—all twelve of these tracks are purely live with no after-the-fact studio cosmetics. Despite this being Joe’s sixth live album, no two tour snapshots are alike. Joe’s a thoughtful artist, carefully tweaking arrangements, exploring harmony, rhythm and sharing his explorations and experiments with his fans. This is the latest photo album from his 2008 European tour.