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George Duke: The Master of the Game

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[Editor's Note: The following piece was first published at AAJ contributor Jeff Winbush's The Domino Theory blog, and is reprinted here in tribute to George Duke, who passed away on August 5, 2013]I never caught George Duke live in concert. I never met the man in person. However, he did give me two hours of his extremely busy time to talk to me for a career-spanning interview. What came of it was the longest interview I had ever done before, after or since and after I finished it, I knew that it was good but man, was it ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

George Duke: Dream Weaver

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The end comes eventually for us all with only the time and method to be determined. Dream Weaver is an album constructed around death, loss, healing and moving on. George Duke lost his wife, Corine, in 2011 as well as guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, and vocalist Teena Marie who passed away in 2010 as she was collaborating with Duke on a jazz album.Despite the sense of loss and sorrow hanging over the recording, Dream Weaver is hardly a solemn affair. Duke's trademark good humor, playfulness and finely tuned ability not to take himself too seriously, as benefits someone ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

George Duke: The Complete 1970s Epic Albums Collection

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The George Duke BandThe Complete 1970s Epic Albums CollectionEpic/Legacy2012The George Duke Band: The Complete 1970s Epic Albums Collection compiles the six albums that keyboardist, bandleader, composer, arranger and producer George Duke released on Epic Records between 1977 and 1979, accompanied by extensive and reflective notes on each album personally written by Duke, who wrote, arranged and produced just about every track.As an instrumentalist, Duke strongly resembles one of his most famous employers, soul-jazz saxophonist and bandleader Cannonball Adderley: Duke plays in an enthusiastic and compelling style, hard and fast, but ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

George Duke: The Complete 1970s Epic Albums Collection

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The George Duke BandThe Complete 1970s Epic Albums CollectionEpic/Legacy2012 The six albums comprising this collection of George Duke's 1977-80 Epic releases are of uneven quality--as the keyboardist himself acknowledges in the liner booklet--but they make an interesting historical artifact. From a “jazz" point of view, five of the discs approach irrelevance, but the sixth, 1980's samba-informed A Brazilian Love Affair, is a classic which still has alluring legs. The back-story: Duke is one of those keyboard players who began their careers in the mid-1960s playing acoustic jazz and ...

INTERVIEWS

George Duke: Facing the Music

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In jazz, there are two seminal figures called “Duke." For Edward Kennedy Ellington, “Duke" was a nickname. For George Duke, it is his surname, but the similarities with Duke Ellington don't end there. As a pianist, arranger, songwriter, bandleader and composer, George Duke has solidified his reputation as one of jazz's most important figures. Also a bold innovator who isn't afraid to confound admirers and critics alike, Duke dived headfirst into funk with his irresistible hit “Reach For It," an unexpected crossover smash.Duke evolved, from playing keyboards with Cannonball Adderley, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Jean-Luc ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Duke: Deja Vu

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George Duke's Deja Vu should win the 2010 Truth in Advertising award, because it will sound familiar to anyone who following the keyboard virtuoso's 40-year career. Duke, however, doesn't recycle riffs wholesale from his repertoire, as he did on 2008's tepid Dukey Treats (Heads Up); instead, he pulls back from trying to recapture past funk glories with more consistently satisfying results, sounding more relaxed--and, perhaps, having a bit more fun.As a musician and producer, Duke has accomplished too much to worry about pleasing anyone but himself, first and foremost. He appears to be taking stock of what he's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Duke: Dukey Treats

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George Duke is one of those artists who defy easy description. A keyboardist, vocalist, composer and producer, he may turn up anywhere. At various stages of his career, he's been a bandleader, a sideman and manager of his own label, BPM (Big Piano Music).Duke's associations on the stage or in the studio cover various genres: pop, funk, blues, jazz, smooth jazz, etc. He was a member of Julian “Cannonball" Adderley's band, collaborated with Stanley Clarke, and has worked with Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Fourplay, Larry Carlton and many others. Duke even had a recurring role as a piano ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

George Duke: My Soul - The Complete MPS Fusion Recordings

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George DukeMy Soul--The Complete MPS Fusion RecordingsMPS/Universal Music Group2008While he's gone on to become a renowned pop producer and, in recent years, has veered towards smooth jazz territory, keyboardist George Duke has, in fact, the credentials, skill and intuition to tackle most anything he chooses. So, while his early days might be considered by some to be more significant in that they were closer to a jazz aesthetic and further from the R&B spirit that has moved him since, the fact is that Duke has always followed his own heart with respect ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Duke: Faces in Reflection

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Keyboardist George Duke's career may have swerved towards pop and smooth jazz in recent years, but his mid-1960s emergence suggested a future as bright as contemporaries including Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Seminal work with renegade guitarist/composer Frank Zappa in the mid-1970s further cemented a reputation built on earlier recordings with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and vocalist Flora Purim. That he's chosen a more accessible route since then doesn't diminish the string of fine albums released under his own name during fusion's heyday, notably 1974's Faces in Reflection, originally issued by the German MPS label and now receiving ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Restore Your Soul: George Duke in Concert, Boston

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George Duke Berklee Performance Center Boston, Massachusetts January 31, 2008

When George Duke walked out on stage this evening, he was greeted with a show of love befitting one of soul music's favorite sons. Showered with supportive shouts from Berklee students with whom he had spent a week-long residency, Duke didn't have to win over his audience: he had them in his pocket from the first soulful beat.

Backed by a 13-piece band comprising faculty and student musicians, with drummer Terri Lynn Carrington supplying the heartbeat, GD opened with “T-Jam" of NPR ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Three Legacy Compilations: Hancock, Benson, Duke

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Three recent double-CD releases from Sony Legacy help to trace the development of jazz since the 1960s. A lot has happened. The three seminal figures featured here had a lot to do with the way things have turned out.

Herbie Hancock The Essential Herbie Hancock Columbia/Legacy 2006

Watermelon Man starts off this highly recommended collection of Herbie Hancock essentials. When you stop to think about the trials that we've faced through the years and how much this particular recording has done for us, it's hard to find sufficient words to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

George Duke: Face The Music

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From A to Z (Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa), George Duke has worked with an eclectic bunch. He has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Face The Music is Duke’s first release on his own label, Big Piano Music.

The recording kicks things off with “The Black Messiah (Part Two),” which includes the voice of the late Cannonball Adderley introducing George Duke at one of their performances. Duke brings his flair for funk; you can hear the ol’ school R&B influences in his sound. He is a master on grand piano and synths.



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