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George Duke

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George Duke (born January 12, 1946  - August 5, 2013) was a multi-faceted American musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He has worked with numerous acclaimed artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer and professor of music. He first made a name for himself with the album The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. He is known primarily for thirty-odd solo albums as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly Frank Zappa.


Career[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Duke attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley before earning a bachelor's degree in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass, from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.[2] Playing initially with friends from garages to local clubs, Duke quickly eased his way into session work, which refined his abilities and expanded his approach to music. (He later earned his Masters Degree in composition from San Francisco State University. His website mentions a short stint teaching a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt Junior College in Oakland).[2] Beginning in 1967 Duke experimented further with jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, andCannonball Adderley's band, while he acquainted himself with the avantgarde musician Frank Zappa.[3] Duke appeared on a number of Frank Zappa's albums in the early and mid-1970s, including Chunga's Revenge200 MotelsWaka/JawakaThe Grand WazooApostropheOver-Nite SensationOne Size Fits AllBongo Fury and Roxy & Elsewhere. 1992 Movie "Leap of Faith" Gospel songs and choir produced by George Duke and choir master Edwin Hawkins. Duke's other high-profile collaborators include Jean-Luc PontyStanley ClarkeBilly Cobham,[citation needed] Cannonball Adderley, his cousin Dianne ReevesDeniece WilliamsJeffrey OsborneGeorge ClintonAnita BakerRegina BelleRachelle FerrellMarilyn Scott andMike Mainieri's jazz fusion group Steps Ahead, for whom he produced the track "Magnetic Love." Duke played on Herb Ellis' album, Soft Shoe (Concord, 1974) with Harry Sweets Edison; Duke played the piano and organ.

He also served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on Miles Davis albums: "Backyard Ritual" (from Tutu, 1986) and "Cobra" (from Amandla, 1989). He has also worked with a number of notable Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora PurimSheila E appeared on Duke's late-1970s solo albums Don't Let Go and Master of the Game.

Duke had been fairly visible in the R&B world releasing funk-based songs like "Reach for It" and "Dukey Stick". In 1979 he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where he recorded A Brazilian Love Affair. He employed singers Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento and percussionist Airto Moreira. The album featured some Latin jazz and jazz-influenced material. From a jazz standpoint, the album's most noteworthy songs include Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela," "Love Reborn," and "Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite." In addition was "Brazilian Sugar" which was featured on the 2006 video game Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. Meanwhile, Nascimento's vocal on the ballad "Ao Que Vai Nascer" is an example of Brazilian pop at its most sensuous. This acclaimed album contained a wide variety of genres.

Duke has also worked as musical director at numerous large-scale musical events, including the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, London in 1988. In 1989, he temporarily replaced Marcus Miller as musical director of NBC's acclaimed late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season.[4] Duke was also a judge for the 2nd annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers. [5]

"No Rhyme or No Reason" can be heard during the period of time designated as Quiet Storm.

Duke's songs have been used by a wide variety of contemporary musicians in a wide array of genres. These include: "I Love You More", sampled by house music-act Daft Punk for their hit "Digital Love"; "Guilty", sampled by electronica music artist Mylo in his song "Guilty of Love" on Destroy Rock & Roll.

"For Love", sampled by underground hip hop artist MF Doom on his track "I Hear Voices";

"Someday", sampled by hip hop artist/producer Kanye West for Common in "Break My Heart" on his "Finding Forever" album; "You and Me", sampled and used by soul/rhythm and bluesinfluenced hip hop-producer 9th Wonder for his collaboration album with Kaze for the track "Spirit Of '94" on the album Spirit Of '94: Version 9.0; and "Reach for It", sampled by Ice Cube in "True to the Game" on his Death Certificate album and Spice 1 in "In My Neighborhood" on his self-titled debut album.

More recently, Duke worked with Jill Scott on her third studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3; guesting on the track, "Whenever You're Around". Since it was released it has peaked at No.56 on U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.

George Duke performed on the title track of Teena Marie's Congo Square album.

In the summer of 2011, he put together a trio with David Sanborn and Marcus Miller for a tour across the US of more than 20 sold out shows.

By popular vote, Duke was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame at SoulMusic.com in December 2012.

Duke died August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67 and is survived by his sons, Rasheed and John.

Discography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

As leader[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Title Year Label
George Duke Quartet Presented by the Jazz Workshop 1 1966 MPS,SABA
The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio 1969 Pacific Jazz
Save the Country 2 1970 Pickwick
Solus 3 1971 MPS,SABA
The Inner Source (2-LP) 1971 MPS/BASF
Faces in Reflection 1974 MPS/BASF
Feel 1974 MPS/BASF
The Aura Will Prevail 1974 MPS/BASF
I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry 1975 MPS/BASF
Liberated Fantasies 1976 MPS/BASF
The Billy Cobham – George Duke Band 'Live' on Tour in Europe 1976 Atlantic
The Dream 4 1976 MPS/BASF
From Me to You 1977 Epic/CBS
Reach for It 1977 Epic/CBS
Don't Let Go 1978 Epic/CBS
Follow the Rainbow 1979 Epic/CBS
Master of the Game 1979 Epic/CBS
Brazilian Love Affair 1980 Epic/CBS
Clarke/Duke Project 1981 Epic/CBS
Dream On 1982 Epic/CBS
Clarke/Duke Project 2 1983 Epic/CBS
Guardian of the Light 1983 Epic/CBS
Rendezvous 1984 Epic/CBS
Thief in the Night 1985 Elektra
George Duke 1986 Elektra
Night After Night 1989 Elektra
Clarke/Duke Project 3 1990 Epic/CBS
Snapshot 1992 Warner Bros.
Muir Woods Suite 5 1993 Warner Bros.
Illusions 1995 Warner Bros.
Is Love Enough 1997 Warner Bros.
After Hours 1998 Warner Bros.
Cool 2000 Warner Bros.
Face the Music 2002 Bizarre Planet
Duke 2005 Bizarre Planet
In a Mellow Tone 2006 Bizarre Planet
Dukey Treats 2008 Heads Up
Déjà Vu 2010 Telarc Jazz
Dreamweaver 2013 Universal Music

1 Rereleased as "The Primal" by MPS in 1978. 2 Rereleased as "Pacific Jazz" by United Artists in 1978 albeit with a different tracklisting. 3 Solus was recorded in April 1971 and intended to be released as a single album by SABA but when SABA folded and became MPS the powers that be decided to postpone its release. They finally put it out as a double album in 1976 together with George's MPS debut "The Inner Source". The latter was recorded in October 1971. 4 Recorded in 1976 and released in 1978 (Europe-only). Released in the USA (in a slightly different version) as "The 1976 Solo Keyboard Album" by Epic/CBS in 1982.5 Recorded in 1993 at the Montreaux jazz festival but the release got postponed until 1996.

As sideman[edit source | editbeta]Edit

With Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention


With The Keynotes


With Gene Ammons


With Eddie Henderson


With Alphonse Mouzon


With Airto Moreira


With Flora Purim


  • Stories To Tell (Milestone Records, 1974)
  • Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly (Milestone Records, 1976)
  • That's What She Said (Milestone Records, 1978)
  • Carry On (Warner Bros, 1979)

With Michael Jackson


With Miles Davis


  • Tutu (Warner Bros, 1986)
  • Amandla (Warner Bros, 1989)

With Jean-Luc Ponty


With Dianne Reeves


  • Dianne Reeves (Blue Note, 1987)
  • Never Too Far (EMI, 1989)
  • Quiet After The Storm (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Bridges (Blue Note, 1999)
  • In the Moment – Live in Concert (Blue Note, 2000)

With Regina Belle


With Deniece Williams


  • Let's Hear It For the Boy (Columbia, 1984)
  • Love, Niecy Style (Shanachie, 2007)

With Joe Sample


  • Sample This (Warner Bros, 1997)

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