Wednesday, August 14, 2013

George Duke, Keyboardist and Producer

Keyboardist and producer George Duke dies at 67

By Terence McArdle,August 06, 2013
  • Jazz artist George Duke performs at the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 13, 2009. The Grammy-winning keyboardist and producer died Aug. 5, 2013 at 67.
Jazz artist George Duke performs at the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland… (Jean-Christophe Bott/AP )
George Duke, a Grammy-winning keyboardist who crossed musical boundaries to play with entertainers as diverse as Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis and who became a successful producer of pop-oriented rhythm-and-blues records in the 1980s, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 67.
The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukemia, his family said.
As a musician, Mr. Duke made forays into the avant-garde rock of Zappa, Brazilian jazz and urban funk. His long string of recording credits included keyboard work on Jackson’s 1979 “Off the Wall” album and records by jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Davis.
In the 1960s, Mr. Duke studied trombone and string bass at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while playing piano in his own jazz trio in clubs at night. The group’s engagements included a stint as the house band with singer Al Jarreau at San Francisco’s Half Note club.
Mr. Duke also struck up a partnership with French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and the two recorded an album in 1969 and gave a series of performances in the San Francisco area that drew the attention of Zappa and the jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

In the next decade, Mr. Duke divided his time between playing organ and synthesizer on tours with Zappa’s rock band, the Mothers of Invention, and playing electric piano in Adderley’s jazz group. Starting in 1976, he co-led a jazz fusion group with drummer Billy Cobham, a noted Davis collaborator.
In the studio, Zappa pushed Mr. Duke to use the keyboard synthesizer in new ways, even to imitate the string bends of a guitarist.
“Bend notes! I’m a piano player,” he once said. “Now I can be like [blues guitarist] Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. I could play the blues on a synthesizer. I said, that’s it!”
Mr. Duke appeared on nine albums by Adderley and at least 13 by Zappa, including “Roxy & Elsewhere” (1974). When he wasn’t touring with Zappa, Adderley or Cobham, Mr. Duke led and recorded prolifically with his own fusion band.
Mr. Duke said he had wearied of fusion by the late 1970s.
“I felt that had I played as many notes as I could play,” he later told The Washington Post. “I was tired of looking out from the stage and seeing mostly men. . . . The fusion shows attracted mostly men, because it’s male-driven music. Ladies like softer, groove-oriented music. I was wondering if I could draw a different kind of audience with a different kind of music.
“The turning point happened right there in Washington, at the old Cellar Door,” he said. “Ndugu [drummer Leon Chancler] started playing this beat and I liked it so much that I told Byron [bassist Byron Miller] to start playing along to it while I added something on top. We called it ‘Reach for It’ and it became the title track of our next album.”
Reach for It,” a dance groove that could have come from George Clinton’s Parliament, reached No. 2 on the Billboard rhythm-and-blues charts in 1978 and considerably broadened Mr. Duke’s audience — even as it alienated more than a few of his fusion fans.
Another funk-oriented hit, “Dukey Stick,” followed that same year. Some thought the title referred to the mini-Moog keyboard synthesizer that he wore around his neck, but Mr. Duke insisted that it referred to “a magic wand in the tradition of ‘Star Wars.’ ”
In the 1980s, Mr. Duke branched into production work, much of it far afield from jazz and fusion. His many successes included such rhythm-and-blues hits as a Taste of Honey’s lush 1981 remake of the Japanese pop hit “Sukiyaki,” Jeffrey Osborne’s “Stay With Me Tonight” (1983) and Deniece Williams’s “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” from the 1984 movie “Footloose.”
Regarded as a perfectionist in the studio, Mr. Duke also knew how to cut corners when necessary.
“Many of Taste of Honey’s vocals were done right in this office,” he told Musician magazine in 1984. “We came in to save money, moved the couch out, set the micro­phone right here and recorded. For Jeff [Osborne]’s first record, we had to turn the refrigerator off, take the clock out for the ticking and put foam in the windows to keep the birds and dogs from coming through.”
The Dianne Reeves album “In the Moment — Live in Concert,” produced by Mr. Duke, received a 2000 Grammy Award for best jazz vocal album. His other production credits included recordings by the Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, Melissa Manchester, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker and the gospel group Take 6.
George Duke was born on Jan. 12, 1946, in San Rafael, Calif. He began taking piano lessons at 4 after his mother took him to see a performance by bandleader and pianist Duke Ellington.
“I don’t remember it too well . . . but my mother told me I went crazy,” Mr. Duke said on his Web site. “I ran around saying: ‘Get me a piano, get me a piano!’ ”

George Duke (January 12, 1946 – August 5, 2013) was an American musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He had 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 was known primarily for thirty-odd solo albums as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly Frank Zappa.

Biography[edit source | edit]

Early life[edit source | 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. He also taught a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt College in Oakland.[2]

Career[edit source | edit]

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, and Cannonball Adderley's band, while he acquainted himself with Frank Zappa.[1] Duke appeared on a number of Frank Zappa's albums through the 1970s.
Duke 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 Purim. Sheila E appeared on Duke's late-1970s solo albums Don't Let Go and Master of the Game.
Duke was prominent in the R&B genre, releasing funk-based songs like "Reach for It" and "Dukey Stick". In 1979 he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where he recorded the album A Brazilian Love Affair, on which he employed singers Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento and percussionist Airto Moreira. The album contained music in a wide assortment of genres, including 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." The track "Brazilian Sugar" 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. The 1992 film Leap of Faith featured gospel songs and choir produced by George Duke and choir master Edwin Hawkins.
Duke 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.[3] Duke was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[4]
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". 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.

Legacy & influence[edit source | edit]

Duke died August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67 and is survived by his sons, Rashid and John.[5]
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 blues influenced 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, and sampled by W.C. & The Maad Circle (featuring Mack 10 & Ice Cube) in "West Up" on their "Curb Servin'" album.
Duke was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for After Hours in 1999.[6] By popular vote, Duke was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame at in December 2012.[7]

Discography[edit source | edit]

Clarke and Duke in concert

As leader[edit source | edit]

George Duke Quartet Presented by the Jazz Workshop 11966MPS,SABA
The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio1969Pacific Jazz
Save the Country 21970Pickwick
Solus 31971MPS,SABA
The Inner Source (2-LP)1973MPS/BASF
Faces in Reflection1974MPS/BASF
The Aura Will Prevail1974MPS/BASF
I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry1975MPS/BASF
Liberated Fantasies1976MPS/BASF
The Billy Cobham – George Duke Band 'Live' on Tour in Europe1976Atlantic
The Dream 41976MPS/BASF
From Me to You1977Epic/CBS
Reach for It1977Epic/CBS
Don't Let Go1978Epic/CBS
Follow the Rainbow1979Epic/CBS
Master of the Game1979Epic/CBS
Brazilian Love Affair1980Epic/CBS
Clarke/Duke Project1981Epic/CBS
Dream On1982Epic/CBS
Clarke/Duke Project 21983Epic/CBS
Guardian of the Light1983Epic/CBS
Thief in the Night1985Elektra
George Duke1986Elektra
Night After Night1989Elektra
Clarke/Duke Project 31990Epic/CBS
Snapshot1992Warner Bros.
Muir Woods Suite 51993Warner Bros.
Illusions1995Warner Bros.
Is Love Enough1997Warner Bros.
After Hours1998Warner Bros.
Cool2000Warner Bros.
Face the Music2002Bizarre Planet
Duke2005Bizarre Planet
In a Mellow Tone2006Bizarre Planet
Dukey Treats2008Heads Up
Déjà Vu2010Telarc Jazz
Dreamweaver2013Universal 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 | edit]

With Al Jarreau
With Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
With The Keynotes
  • Get On That Gospel Train (MPS, 1973)
With Gene Ammons
With Billy Cobham
  • Crosswinds (Atlantic, 1974)
  • B.C. (Columbia, 1979)
  • Picture This (GRP, 1987)
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 Jean-Luc Ponty
With Deniece Williams
  • Let's Hear It For the Boy (Columbia, 1984)
  • Love, Niecy Style (Shanachie, 2007)
With Miles Davis
With Dianne Reeves
  • Dianne Reeves (Blue Note, 1987)
With John Scofield
  • Loud Jazz (Gramophone, 1988)
  • 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 Chanté Moore
With Joe Sample
  • Sample This (Warner Bros, 1997)
With Phil Collins
With Regina Belle
With Teena Marie

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