It was a brisk November night as we made our way up to Broadway and 74th street. George Duke was at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan! Couldn't miss this one. From Cannonball Adderly to Frank Zappa, George Duke has played with a diverse crowd. He produced Miles' Tutu! 'Nuff said! He is so adaptable and innovative and - oh yeah - funky as a mother! Having long been a George Duke fan, this was the first time I was ever to see him 'live.' And he was all I expected and more. First of all, he's funny as heck! Joking with the audience, Duke was at ease and at home onstage. "Bam!" he shouted as he thrust his new CD out at arm's length in the direction of the audience to the left. "Bam!" to the audience at the right. He explained he was on Emeril's cooking show the week before. Claims Emeril cooked him some fine crab. "Bam!" as he holds up Face The Music, his latest release on his own label. All songs written by George Duke, produced by George Duke for George Duke Enterprises. "This is my money up here!," George laughs as he begins the show.
Much of Face The Music was performed during the show including "The Black Messiah (Part Two)", which featured the voice of the late Cannonball Adderly introducing George at one of their historical gigs. Cannonball's voice! How cool is that? The music was funky as it gets! 'Cause once you're funky, you're always funky!
Moving from synths to grand piano, George is in control of his instruments making beautiful sounds of love to screaming riffs like a lead electric guitar. His music is uncompromising. "You won't hear my music on the radio," he laughs. To me, it's some of the best music out there. Plain and simple.
Moving into "Chillin'", the concert continues and you are reminded of warm summer nights, perhaps sipping on a pina colada in Aruba. His stuff can be very romantic with a taste of the tropics. "Guess You're Not The One" is my favorites on the CD and he did the song justice 'live'. Spraying into his mouth a lemon and honey mist - or something like that - he complained his throat was dry - and then proceeded to sing the beautiful chorus.
Introducing the band, George warned they were from the Windy City. That explains a lot. House bands in Chicago kick ass! I've been to some blues clubs in Chicago and the house bands burn!!! These guys were no different. The band goes something like this: Larry Kimpel - bass, Ray Fuller - guitar, Teddy Campbell - drums, and David Kochanski - synths.
The hour-long gig wasn't nearly long enough! We all wanted more! "I wanna keep playin', but the Beacon got rules! "George quipped as the lights came up. We cheered him on for an encore, at which point he welcomed "New York is the home of the musician...we got any piano players in the audience?" Suddenly this young sister with big gold hoop earrings jumps onstage. She humbly hugs George as he leads her to the synth. "Bam!" she kicks in and plays amazing George Duke-like licks! He stands - looking at her like..."Wow!" Anonymous in New York kicks it! It was the perfect end to a great evening.
(We arrived late to catch the end of the set for the seven time Grammy Award Winning vocal band Take Six. Sorry guys. You sounded great. We missed them because of the great sushi up the block at oBune - 2164 Broadway).
Let me also give props to Mark Morganelli, the promoter for the show with Jazz Forum Arts (www.jazzforumarts.org). He brings in some of the best music in the entire tri-state area. Thanks for the great music!
Do yourself a favor and look into the music of George Duke. He's a diamond in the rough and worthy of greater recognition. But ya know what? He probably doesn't care about the fame and stuff. He's got his music and his faith. What else do ya need?
For more information on George Duke got to: www.georgeduke.com.