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George Duke

George Duke was an accomplished keyboardist, producer, arranger, bandleader, and composer. He was successful in both popular music and jazz, and straddled both sides of that aisle for most of his career. Duke grew up in Marin City, California, and in high school played in his first jazz group. His early influences were Miles Davis, Les McCann, and Cal Tjader, all of whom played a role in the diversity of his composing, playing, and arranging. After graduating from high school, he attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and majored in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass; he received his bachelor's degree in music in 1967. He continued his studies at San Francisco State University, where he earned a master's degree, and briefly taught at Merritt Junior College in Oakland. While in school, Duke was part of a house band at San Francisco's Half Note with Al Jarreau. The band backed some of the biggest names in jazz, including Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon.

He also began his recording career in 1967 while still in school. His first recording, The George Duke Quartet, Presented by the Jazz Workshop, was released on Germany's Saba imprint, which later became MPS, a label he enjoyed a fruitful relationship with in the '70s. In 1969 Duke heard a record on the radio by French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and through his relationship with Pacific Jazz honcho Dick Bock he was able to make contact with Ponty; they eventually recorded The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio in 1969. The band played a slew of club gigs in the Bay Area, and at one such performance he was heard by audience members Frank Zappa and Cannonball Adderley. He was invited to join Zappa's Mothers of Invention and accepted, spending much of 1969 and 1970 with him. Duke then spent 1971-1972 as pianist with Cannonball Adderley's band, and then returned to Zappa from 1973-1975.

In 1975 he worked with Sonny Rollins and co-led a group with Billy Cobham. Throughout these years, Duke recorded six albums for MPS: Solus/The Inner Source, Faces in Reflection, I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry, Feel, The Aura Will Prevail, and Liberated Fantasies, all of which are now regarded as jazz and jazz-funk classics. Duke signed to CBS in late 1975 and released his first solo album for the imprint, From Me to You, in 1976, and began scandalizing jazz critics with his inclusion of funk, disco, and soul elements in his compositions, and in the array of musicians who performed with him. In 1978 he recorded his breakthrough, the crossover funk album Reach for It; it took him into the upper reaches of the pop charts, and moved his concert appearances from clubs to arenas. Follow the Rainbow and Brazilian Love Affair both landed in 1979 and ran up the charts as well.

By the late '70s he was also producing projects for jazz, pop, and Brazilian artists including Raul de Souza, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and A Taste of Honey, whose single "Sukiyaki" hit the top spot on the pop, adult contemporary, and R&B charts and went multi-platinum. Duke became a producer of note, going on to score hits with Jeffrey Osbourne ("Stay with Me Tonight," "On the Wings of Love") and Deniece Williams ("Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Do What You Feel"). After that, production played as large a role as making his own records -- during part of the '80s almost surpassing it. Duke produced a diverse range of projects -- including records by the Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, Melissa Manchester, 101 North, George Howard, Gladys Knight, Najee, Take 6, Howard Hewett, Chanté Moore, Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell (his key collaborator in the early '90s), Gladys Knight, Keith Washington, Gary Valenciano, Johnny Gill, and Anita Baker -- in a wide range of styles. Many of these records charted highly.

Duke began the '80s with the first Clarke/Duke Project recording (with bassist Stanley Clarke) that netted his own number Top 20 crossover hit, "Sweet Baby" (number 19 Pop, number 6 R&B). He also released the solo works Dream On, Guardian of the Light, and Rendezvous as well as another Clarke/Duke Project album before leaving Epic for Elektra in 1984. There he recorded Thief in the Night, George Duke, and Night After Night. Duke's music delighted mainstream audiences and crossed over from pop to adult contemporary to the R&B charts effortlessly.

The '90s commenced for Duke with a third and final Clarke/Duke Project recording before he signed to Warner Bros. upon the courting of legendary label boss Mo Ostin. While his debut for the label, 1993's Snapshot, hit the charts because of its smash single "No Rhyme, No Reason" (sung by Ferrell), the biggest surprise for audiences came later, in 1995, with the release of The Muir Woods Suite. A large jazz concept work, it was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Duke playing keyboards, Clarke on bass, Chester Thompson on drums, and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion fronting a symphony orchestra. It was actually recorded in 1993, but Duke spent two years "fixing" the tracks before it was released in 1995; he later performed it numerous times in concert. Jazz critics who had long derided his pop success and wrote him off suddenly took notice again. Duke, however, was courting no one. In 1996 he released Illusions and nailed another single in the Top 40 with "Love Can Be So Cold." Some of the players and singers featured on the album included Ferrell, James Ingram, Joyce Kennedy, Mervin Warren, Marvin Winans, the Emotions, Lori Perry, and Everette Harp. Duke finished the decade with a string of albums for Warner including a second concept work, After Hours, before leaving the label after 2000's Cool.

Duke threw another change-up in 2002 with Face the Music, issued on BPM. He played mostly acoustic piano on the date -- something he hadn't done in years -- and used the same core band on the entire recording (another rarity). His main sidemen for the date were bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lil' John Roberts, and Jef Lee Johnson on guitar. Though there are other instruments and players, these men appear on every track. The album Duke was released in 2005, a hodgepodge of music he'd left off other projects. In 2006 he released In a Mellow Tone, a more traditional jazz album with Brian Bromberg on upright bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, and the jazz critics took notice once again. Duke returned to jazz-funk and R&B for 2008's Dukey Treats, on Heads Up/Telarc, once more using singers and a slew of musicians. It was followed by Déjà Vu in 2010. In 2012, he produced Jeffrey Osborne's Time for Love album (released in 2013). During the sessions, Duke's wife of 40 years, Corine, died from complications due to cancer. After some time spent away from music in order to properly grieve, he entered the studio in early 2013, and recorded DreamWeaver, which was released in July of that year. Undergoing treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Duke passed away in a Los Angeles hospital the following month, just over a year after the passing of his wife. He was 67 years old. ~ Thom Jurek
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Brazilian Fusion

1. Omi (Fresh Water)

2. Diamonds

3. Yeah, We Going

4. The Way I Feel

5. The Future

6. Sunrise

7. Festival

8. Straight From The Heart

9. Corine

10. Someday

11. Positive Energy

12. Let Your Love Shine

13. Thinking Of You

14. Your Life

15. Ipanema Lady

16. A Melody

x

Track List: Dreamweaver

1. Dreamweaver

2. Stones Of Orion

3. Trippin'

4. Ashtray

5. Missing You

8. Jazzmatazz

9. Round The Way Girl

11. Brown Sneakers

12. You Never Know

13. Ball & Chain

14. Burnt Sausage Jam

15. Happy Trails

x

Track List: Deja Vu

1. A Melody

2. You Touch My Brain

3. What Goes Around Comes Around

4. Bring Me Joy

5. Ripple In Time

6. Oh Really?

7. 6 O'Clock Revisited

8. Come To Me Now

9. Stupid Is As Stupid Does

x

Track List: Dukey Treats

1. Everyday Hero

2. I Tried To Tell You

3. A Fonk Tail

4. Dukey Treats

5. Listen Baby

6. Mercy

7. Somebody Laid It On Us

8. Creepin' (Ghoulie Remix)

9. Right On Time

10. Sudam

11. Are You Ready

12. Images Of Us

x

Track List: In A Mellow Tone

1. In A Mellow Tone

2. For All We Know

3. Never Will I Marry

4. Spring Is Here

5. Sweet Baby

6. Down The Road

7. So Many Stars

8. So I'll Pretend

9. Quiet Fire

10. Just Because

11. I Loves You Porgy

x

Track List: Duke

Disc 1

1. Trust

2. I Wanna Know

3. Superwoman

4. No One

5. T-Jam

6. Somebody's Body

7. Sausalito

8. Saturday Night

9. In Between The Heartaches

10. Hybrids

11. Homeland

Disc 2
x

Track List: Face The Music

2. Chillin'

3. My Piano

4. Guess You're Not The One

5. Let's Roll

6. Ain't It Funky Now

8. Another Way To Look At It

9. Creepin'

10. Ten Mile Jog

x

Track List: Cool

1. Marin City

2. Wake Up, Smell The Coffee

3. She's Amazing

4. If You Will

5. Never Be Another

6. Ancient Source

7. Only You Understand

8. If He Ain't Mr. Right (Then He's Mr. Wrong)

9. Sexy Cool

10. All About You

11. Whatever It Takes

12. The Times We've Known

13. At A Glance

x

Track List: Snapshot

1. From The Void (Intro)

2. History (I Remember)

3. Snapshot

4. No Rhyme, No Reason

5. 6 O'Clock

6. Ooh Baby

7. Fame

8. Geneva

9. Speak Low

10. Keeping Love Alive

11. Until Sunrise

12. Bus Tours

13. In The Meantime (Interlude)

14. The Morning After

x

Track List: Reach For It

1. The Beginning

2. Lemme At It

3. Hot Fire

4. Reach For It

5. Just For You

6. Omi (Fresh Water)

7. Searchin' My Mind

8. Watch Out Baby!

9. Diamonds

10. The End

11. Bring It On Home

x

Track List: Don't Let Go

1. We Give Our Love

2. Morning Sun

3. Percussion Interlude

4. Dukey Stick

5. Starting Again

6. Yeah, We Going

7. The Way I Feel

8. Movin' On

9. Don't Let Go

10. Preface

11. The Future

x

Track List: Faces in Reflection

1. The Opening

2. Capricorn

3. Piano Solo No.1 + 2

4. Psychocomatic Dung

5. Faces in Reflection No.1

6. Maria Tres Filhos

7. North Beach

8. Da Somba

9. Faces in Reflection No.2

Comments

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gordonl14
Was rased on george Rio
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And hey even tho I'm in Saint Louis now..back in the Windy City where I'm originally from there was no CHICAGO without George Duke...defin i t e l y missed but never ever will be 4gotten. I still hear you G. D.!..RING ON(YOU'VE EARNED IT HANDS DOWN)
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Just Amazing that's all I can say..if you never got into George Duke music then your technically "Music Eliterate" and I mean that in the kindest way:)
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EAST ST LOUIS LOVE YOU GEORGE DUKE....MORR I S WOODARD
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We love George in the Bay Area. Notice he has a smile on his face all the time. Truly a gentile soul...
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Frank Zappa's best work was with George.
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I am still listening to you R.I.P. Simply the best...
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Simply the best!
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A true talent lost. R.I.P. Brotherman.. .
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dwaineaustin 4
What really matters is what his music did to the heart and soul....much love and respect for sharing your thoughts and feelings through your God given gifts....
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What a talent the first time I heard him I was hooked.R I P
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I never thought that April 2013 in Detroit at the Fox Theatre would be the last time I'd get to see Geroge in person. As I was leaving he was in the lobbey signing autographs and embracing the fans. What a loving spirit he had. I'm greatful for the music that he left us and I'll never tire of it.. Thank you George! RIP.
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What a great talented musician! But his music will always be here for next century and beyond RIP George!
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mslette501
So talented and missed much...truly a great artist and musician
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what a groove
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nice
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One of the finest ever. His music will live on forever.
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john.anderso n j r
A true jazz man and funk man all in one. RIP Dukey
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What's not to like .... It's George duke man !!!!
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George Duke is 1 ov the greats, dont 4get it. Just go back in time an listen. BobbyZ / Ga .
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Reminds me of my childhood
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I grew up to Gorge Duke, he will be so missed..RIP.
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Gorge Duke is sweet.
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kimovn630
It's been a minute since I heard Brazilian Love Affair. Sounding nice! RIP Mr. George Duke
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This is The CO
GD ur the man as far as I'm concerned, as to my favorite track go to be "Say Hello" the vocals are just out standing, the arrangement is so on point, then the instrumentat i o n of the track itself only you GD could pull that off. UR TRULY MISSED MY BROTHER, HOPE TO MEET YOUR SOUL AGAIN, RIP GD
Report as inappropriate
Dukey Stick will always be one of my George Duke favorites. He is missed...
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I GREW UP LISTENING TO GEORGE DUCK FROM 1975 2013 I MISS U MUCH ...
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George you are missed by so many music lovers. ..you music brought so much feeling. Love all your CD's..
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Duke you are missed by so many music lovers. Thanks for all the music you left for us to enjoy until we meet you again. Rest in Peace Mr. Duke!
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May the Funk/Jazz be with u! G.O.A.T.
Rest in Peace my brother! Miss u much!����
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Rest In Peace my jazzy funkmaster
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I Think That This Station Is The Bomb! JAZZ Is What I Wanted. Thanks. ! FUNK INCLUDED ! ��⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ $ !
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He was a blessing musically.
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cheidie
Love the piano, sounds so soulful you can feel it in your heart.
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bridgey2
Always my favorite musician-tot a l l y brilliant
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I love this song so much! Still!! One of my favorites!! Rest in peace George Duke #classic
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Great artist, the best!
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Real mellow I LOVE IT
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Cause that Roooollermot i o n ! ! ! Mr. Duke! A True Legend!!!
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He had an amazing style, funk,jazz n soul wrapped into one
Report as inappropriate
The man was so talented!
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philippepelu s o
he was such an amazing composer, and the music he made with Frank Zappa was a treasure.... .
Report as inappropriate
Ahhhhhhh
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benjaminjhos k i n s
Legend
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You are the best thanks George the man.
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I love you George .
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You made beautiful music....in between the heartaches dear George R.I.P
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Ohioans have loved you from the very beginning. BEAUTIFUL MUSIC!!! RIP GEORGE, we will miss you.
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I had the pleasure of seeing George Duke in concert and sadly spoke with him on a radio interview weeks before his passing a musical Genius who is greatly missed.
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One of my favorite artists!!!!
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