All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

404

George Duke: Faces in Reflection

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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 a superb remaster/reissue treatment from the fledgling Promising Music.



Unlike larger outfits like Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Faces in Reflection is a trio effort, featuring powerhouse drummer Leon Ndugu Chandler (Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine, Santana) and bassist John Heard, a name not well-known but a voice often heard in the company of artists ranging from Duke and Ponty to Count Basie and Bobby Hutcherson. With an arsenal of keyboards including acoustic and electric piano, and an array of analogue synthesizers, Duke delivers a fusion album that, had it received major label release in North America, would have easily rivaled larger scale albums from his peers. "The Opening" kicks the disc off with full force, a simple enough structure but one that gives Duke the opportunity to demonstrate that, in a Spanish-tinged modal format, he was every bit the equal of Corea.



Duke's virtuosity retains all the energy without the frivolous excess that sometimes marred other 1970s fusion albums. Clearly he understood the concept of fusing irregular meters, jazz harmonies and propulsive grooves, but in the context of memorable writing from which the trio could expand. He also had some of the meatiest synth tones around; flexible like Corea but with greater weight and, nearly 35 years later, zero "cheese" factor.



Duke uses his voice on the wordless "The Opening" and more relaxed funk of "Capricorn" years before artists like Pat Metheny began integrating wordless vocals into their music. A restrained reprise of the more expansive and relentless "Faces in Reflection No. 1" closes the album, with Duke's only lyric-based vocal of the disc.



Chandler's effortless ability to groove while retaining an equal voice in the trio is no surprise, but Heard's performance is an unexpected ear-opener. Playing strictly acoustic bass—but with the same lithe dexterity as Stanley Clarke—helps to defines the album's overall tone, and on the high octane "De Somba," he delivers a staggering solo that's but one of the disc's many highlights.



Faces in Reflection is one of a number of albums that Duke released on MPS. Coupled with Promising Music's plans to reissue the majority of that label's output over the coming years, the rest are sure to follow, including the more orchestrated Feel. Until then, Faces in Reflection is a reminder of just how inventive Duke was—and still is, since there's no less craft in his recent recordings, only a shift in emphasis.


Track Listing: The Opening; Capricorn; Piano Solo 1; Piano Solo 2; Psychocomatic Dung; Faces in Reflection No. 1; Maria Tres Filhos; North Beach; Da Somba; Faces in Reflection No. 2.

Personnel: George Duke: keyboards, vocals; Leon Ndugu Chancler: drums; John Heard: bass.

Title: Faces in Reflection | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Promising Music/MPS

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road CD/LP/Track Review
Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 25, 2018
Read 8 Songs CD/LP/Track Review
8 Songs
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Facing Dragons CD/LP/Track Review
Facing Dragons
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read "Frames & Terrains" CD/LP/Track Review Frames & Terrains
by John Sharpe
Published: March 25, 2018
Read "Bansangu Orchestra" CD/LP/Track Review Bansangu Orchestra
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 17, 2018
Read "Beginnings" CD/LP/Track Review Beginnings
by David A. Orthmann
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Alleviation" CD/LP/Track Review Alleviation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Playmates" CD/LP/Track Review Playmates
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 14, 2018
Read "The Lead Belly Project" CD/LP/Track Review The Lead Belly Project
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 19, 2017