Berklee Performance Center
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 radio fame. "Trust" and "Ain't It Funky" kicked the soul celebration into high gear and was followed by "Brazilian Love Affair" and the Latin-tinged "Guess You're Not the One." A get-off-your-ass-and-jam P-Funk medley kept the sold-out Berklee crowd dancing in the aisles 'til the houselights came on.
A five-time Grammy winner with deep roots in jazz, R&B, gospel and soul, George Duke certainly knows how to put on a show. Last night he proved it again by nursing every drop of emotion out of his piano/vocal ballad "It's You." He proved it by playing two notes with two fingers for two minutes on two keyboards. He proved it by channeling the musical mojo of Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown and George Clinton. And he proved it by exuding confidence as a musician and a bandleader, a confidence that quickly spread to his musicians on stage and his supporters in the house.
"We're all family here," Duke declared in the middle of his explosive set. A simple message, on the one hand. On the other, it's a testament to the unifying effect soul music can have on people be they black or white, students or teachers, young or old.
On this night, by George, all were united under a groove.