The Bowery Presents:
Joe Jackson: Four Decade Tour
Tue · May 28, 2019
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pmThe Civic Theatre
$50 Reserved Orchestra | $40 Reserved Balcony + Gallery | $65 Reserved Loge (+$5 all on day of show)
This event is all ages
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Floor, Balcony Loge, Balcony, and Gallery seats are fully reserved
Bars are open on all levels
Bathrooms are located on the Floor and Gallery
For more info, please visit www.civicnola.com/faqs
A couple of years later, Joe had switched to the piano, mainly because of his new ambition: to be a composer. His first efforts were pieces for piano and small groups of instruments. Within a few more years, though, he was writing songs, and leaning more towards the pop world.
At age 16 Joe played his first paying gig, as pianist in a pub next door to a glue factory just outside of Portsmouth. This was followed by other pub gigs (in which he was often trying to entertain crowds of drunken, bottle-throwing sailors) and accompanying a bouzouki player in a Greek restaurant.
At age 18 Joe won a scholarship to study Composition, Piano, and Percussion at London's Royal Academy of Music. During the three years he spent there, he broadened his horizons further by working with a Fringe theatre group, studying Jazz with John Dankworth at the Academy and in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and playing in pop cover bands with names like Edward Bear and The Misty Set. By the time he left the Academy, he was the co-leader and songwriter of Arms and Legs, a proto-punk outfit which released two singles on the MAM label before burning out somewhere around 1976.
Joe then took a detour through the Cabaret world, as pianist and musical director first for the Portsmouth Playboy Club and then for singing duo Koffee N' Kreme. The main purpose of this was to save money to make demos of his own songs.
By 1978 Joe was living in London and hawking an album-length demo, with his own band (Graham Maby, Bass; Dave Houghton, Drums; Gary Sanford, Guitar) standing by. That demo - already called Look Sharp - eventually found its way to American producer David Kershenbaum, who was in London in the capacity of talent scout for A&M Records. Joe was immediately signed and Look Sharp more professionally re-recorded in August '78. The Joe Jackson Band finally started to play regular gigs and the album was released in January 1979.
Joe Jackson's story up to this point is much more fully, fascinatingly, and hilariously recounted in his book A Cure For Gravity. From here on, though, it becomes more a matter of public record. Look Sharp (containing the hit Is She Really Going Out With Him) was followed within a year by the very similar I'm The Man (containing the hit It’s Different For Girls) and in 1980 by the darker, more reggae-influenced Beat Crazy. At the end of 1980, drummer Houghton decided to quit, and Joe decided to dissolve the band and try something new.
In 1981 Jackson recorded Jumpin' Jive, a 'musical vacation' paying tribute to Swing and Jump Blues artists such as Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. Returning to songwriting, Joe spent a large chunk of 1982 in New York. The result was Night and Day, a more sophisticated and melodic record built around keyboards and Latin percussion, rather than guitars. With a new guitar-less band, Jackson hit the road for a whole year, and the album became his biggest success, spawning the hit singles Steppin’ Out, Breaking Us In Two and Real Men and going platinum in the US. During the tour Joe also somehow found time to write his first film score, for James Bridges' Mike's Murder. (He would go on to write several more, including most notably for Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker in 1988).
Now based in NYC, Jackson's next album Body and Soul (1984) was in a similar vein to Night and Day but featured a horn section (which, along with the Blue Note-inspired cover art, led many people to wrongly assume he'd made a jazz record). For Big World (1986) Jackson stripped everything down to a 4-piece again, and recorded live, direct to 2-track master. In 1989 he went in the opposite direction with the majestic, semi-autobiographical Blaze of Glory, and toured with an 11-piece band. Laughter and Lust (1991) was more like a mainstream (though still idiosyncratic) rock record, but yet another lengthy world tour left Jackson exhausted and at a creative dead end. As he sees it, his workaholic phase - which also included several film scores, a live album (Live 1980-86), an instrumental album (Will Power, 1987), guest appearances with Suzanne Vega, Ruben Blades and Joan Armatrading, and endless touring - was over.
Joe's work during the rest of the 1990s was his most challenging and eclectic: the gentle, soul-searching Night Music (1994), the ambitious and original song-cycle based on the Seven Deadly Sins, Heaven and Hell (1997), and the album Joe considers his most underrated, Night and Day II (2000). The turn of the century saw a burst of creativity: Jackson won his first Grammy (Best Pop Instrumental Album for the non-traditional, non-orchestral Symphony No.1) and published his book A Cure For Gravity. Described by Joe as not an autobiography but ‘a book about music thinly disguised as a memoir’, it was well-reviewed and has been translated into German and Dutch.
In 2003 Joe astonished everyone, including himself, by re-forming the original Joe Jackson Band for a stunning new album, Volume 4, and a lengthy tour. The reunion was always intended as a one-off, but it also produced a live album, Afterlife, in 2004.
By this time Joe was living mostly back in London. He made quite a few solo appearances, including on an unusual triple-bill tour with Todd Rundgren and the string quartet Ethel. He sang and played piano on Rickie Lee Jones' It's Like That and William Shatner's Has Been (produced, arranged and co-written by Ben Folds). He made his first film appearance, as a pub pianist, in The Greatest Game Ever Played, which also features some of his music. He was also awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Music and an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Portsmouth.
Around this time Joe started working with writer Raymond Hardie and director Judy Dolan on Stoker, a musical theatre project about Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula. Though Stoker has been workshopped, performed a couple of times for small invited audiences, and attracted a lot of interest from theatre companies around the world, it has yet to find the backing for a fully-staged production.
In 2006 Joe turned his attention back to pure songwriting and did a short Trio tour with Graham Maby and Dave Houghton. Having failed to happily re-establish himself in London, he moved to Berlin, where his next album Rain was recorded in 2007. Consisting of ten powerful, timeless new songs, Raincreates a surprisingly epic sound with just voices, piano, bass and drums. The trio toured for the next three years, and played more shows than any other J J lineup, including Joe’s first visits to Mexico, Israel, Croatia, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Turkey. A live album, Live Music, was released in 2011.
The second decade of the century saw the release of The Duke, a cover album with a difference. Though consisting entirely of Duke Ellington compositions, Jackson’s arrangements are radically different from the originals, with entirely different grooves and sounds (no horns, for instance). The Duke features an eclectic cast including Amir ‘Questlove’ Thompson and other members of The Roots, Steve Vai, Sharon Jones and Iggy Pop.
A new album of original songs, Fast Forward, was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. Originally conceived as a series of EPs, it features four sets of four songs recorded in four different cities – New York, New Orleans, Berlin and Amsterdam – each with a different set of guest musicians, including Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Regina Carter, and members of the New Orleans funk band Galactic.
Joe’s latest album Fool was released in January 2019 – exactly 40 years after the release of Look Sharp. A much shorter and more focussed album than Fast Forward, with a much more ‘live’ feel, it was recorded at the end of a tour in Boise, Idaho, in a week and a half, with the band Joe has been working with for the last three years: Graham Maby (Bass), Teddy Kumpel (Guitar) and Doug Yowell (Drums). Co-produced by Patrick Dillett, the album was mixed in New York. At the time of writing, the band are preparing for a major tour of North America and Europe.
Joe Jackson continues to divide his time between Berlin, New York, and Portsmouth.