Jumpin' Jive proved to be one of Joe Jackson's most adventurous projects as he tries his hand at covering a bunch of Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway tunes, ranging from the extravagance of big band to bop to vibrant swing music. The album broke the Top 50 in the U.S. and made it to number 14 in England, with the title track peaking at number 43 over there as well. Jackson sounds extremely fresh and vivacious throughout all of the tracks, with Calloway's "We the Cats" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" demonstrating how easily his persona adapts to this particular style of music. Jackson doesn't just sing the music here, he actually role-plays to some extent to make the songs sound that much more genuine and timeless, giving tunes like "Tuxedo Junction," "What's the Use of Getting Sober," and the hip-cat composure of "Jumpin' Jive" some modern flash and color. The horn work is dazzling as well, especially Dave Bitelli's alto sax and Pete Thomas' clarinet contributions. Not only was Jumpin' Jive a novel idea, but it reveals Jackson's musical dexterity and desire to further his interests into other avenues aside from pop and mainstream ballads. Although he touched on reggae with 1980's Beat Crazy, Jumpin' Jive fully uncovers his musical astuteness and remains one of his best albums.
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne