Look Sharp, B Sharp

As of signing with the Sony Classical label in 1997, Joe

Jackson's latest albums — including the recent

Symphony No. 1 (1998) — have focused on his

classical-music background, which included several years at

London's Royal Academy of Music. Rock fans can thus be

forgiven for forgetting that Jackson was once a significantly

loud voice in England's late-'70s punk/new-wave movement. His

new live concert album, Summer In The City (


e_City.ram">RealAudio excerpt of title track), then,

reintroduces him as the fine rock artist that he still can

be, not only through his own compositions but also on songs

by key influences, such as with the title track, originally a

#1 hit for New York's folk-rocking Lovin' Spoonful, way back

in 1966.

Jackson's version of "Summer in the City" also shows his

command as an arranger and bandleader — dramatically

stopping, then starting up again before segueing into

"Obvious Song," from his last real rock album, 1991's

engaging but overlooked Laughter And Lust. Other

tracks here also show off Jackson's remarkable knack for

cleverly pairing songs that jibe thematically and/or

musically: Laying the instrumental undercurrent for the

Yardbirds' "For Your Love," he instead launches his own

"Fools in Love" before seamlessly switching over to the

originally expected Yardbirds cover. Likewise, the Ramsey

Lewis Trio's jazzy "The In Crowd" flows gently into Jackson's

autobiographical gem, "Down to London" (


_Down_To_London.ram">RealAudio excerpt).

Seeing as the concert was one of several performed at the

small Joe's Pub in Manhattan, during last year's Duke

Ellington Centennial celebration, Jackson includes his smooth

take on the Duke's "Mood Indigo." The other noteworthy covers

include an especially poignant "Eleanor Rigby" (


y.ram">RealAudio excerpt) and a sneaky take on

(another significant influence) Steely Dan's "King of the


A wondrously expressive pianist, Jackson is accompanied here

by longtime cohorts Graham Maby on bass and Gary Burke on

drums. "We can feel it when we're winning them over, and it

feels good," Jackson says in the CD cover quote from his

recently published book, A Cure for Gravity, in which

he further states that on a good night, "Music has the power

to neutralize the force of gravity." On this night, in

particular, it was the first time he'd employed a trio format

since before he landed his first record contract. But the

sense of nostalgia didn't end there. "One More Time," the

leadoff song from his debut album, Look Sharp!, closes

Summer In The City, showing that 20 years later,

Jackson's lost none of his bite — even if it's been

sweetened a bit by a surer sense of swing.