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EDITOR'S NOTE: We were planning to do this special edition of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter, featuring George Duke and his new album called Dreamweaver," when early on Tuesday morning we got the devastating news that George Duke passed away. George Duke was a longtime member of Soul-Patrol. He loved the fact that we take a rather diverse view of Black music. It is a viewpoint that he shared. Below in addition to a review of the new album "Dreamweaver, a press release announcing his passing from Concord/Heads Up and a press release about the album, there is a text interview that I conducted with George Duke back in 2008. Please scroll down, enjoy, pass the bottle for George Duke and don't forget to lick that "Dukey Stick." -Bob Davis
PRESS RELEASE: LEGENDARY KEYBOARD PIONEER GEORGE DUKE DIES AT 67
For Immediate Release - GRAMMY® Award-winning keyboardist/composer/arranger/producer George Duke has died in Los Angeles at age 67. He was battling and being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
With almost a half a century career, George Duke was one of the world's most prolific jazz legends. From leading a jazz trio with a young Al Jarreau during his formative years to working with Jean-Luc Ponty, which afforded Duke's first recording contract with MPS Records and his first exposure to Europe, to his incredible work with Cannonball Adderley, drummer Billy Cobham, and Frank Zappa, to his cherished stream of jazz-funk records in the '70s, Duke found his mark not only in his eclecticism, but also his signature approach to the synthesizer, which often prized less pyrotechnics in favor of blues elements.
"We are all devastated by the sad news of George's passing," says Mark Wexler, General Manager of the Concord-Telarc Label Group. "He was a great man, a legendary, one-of-a-kind artist; and our hearts go out to his family. George will be missed by all."
"The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father's friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming," says Rashid Duke, George's son. "Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support." George Duke's final recording, DreamWeaver, was released July 16, 2013 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. The making of DreamWeaver occurred after his wife, Corine, passed away. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart.
Album Review: George Duke - Dreamweaver
After doing the review of George Benson's 'Inspiration:A Tribute to Nat 'King' Cole', and as I usually do, I look up information from other music sources. Particularly in the last few years, I make it a quest to examine 'new' music and find something I like, to buy. I saw the album, 'DREAMWEAVER' by George Duke, listened to a few clips and then busted out 'the card'. I made a hard copy for the car and ran my errands. It wasn't long before I had to take it out of the tray. I was in heavy city traffic and this album isn't concussive to driving safely through it.
TRACK LIST w/Featured Performers
STONES OF ORION-Stanley Clarke U-Bass, Gordon Campbell,Drums
TRIPPIN'-Michael Stewart-Trumpet,Kamasi Washington-Tenor Sax
ASH TRAY- Chris Clarke and Rose Geddes
MISSING YOU-Rachelle Ferrell
TRANSITION 1/CHANGE THE WORLD-Lalah Hathaway, Jeffery Osborne,Lori Perry,BeBe Winans, Dira Sugandi,Freddie Jackson,Terry Dexter and the young Kennedy Fuselier
Jazzmatazz- Chilli Booker,Ramon Flores-Trumpet,Kamasi Washington-Tenor Sax, Michael Landau-Guitar
ROUND THE WAY GIRL
TRANSITION 2/BROWN SNEAKERS-Michael Manson-Bass, Lenny Castro-Percussion, Gordon Campbell-Drums
YOU NEVER KNOW-An inspiration from the passing of his wife
BALL & CHAIN- Teena Marie
BURNT SAUSAGE JAM-Christian McBride-Bass,Jef Lee Johnson-Guitar,Lil John Roberts-Drums
Happy Trails- That's right!!! Written by Dale Evans sung with Roy Rogers.
Burnt Sausage--- is a 'continuation' of a jam started on 'Ten Mile Jog' on 'Face The Music'.
Change the World---- is out of that 'We Are the World' concept. Not quite the huge 'choral' assembly, but the artists, as you can see, are no less capable of delivering the message. Maybe 'Less is More'. We can only hope.
Ball and Chain--- was intended to be the initial installment of a project George was about to embark on with Teena Marie with a Jazz album.
Sometimes it is hard to take off my 'Fan Hat' so that I can give an objective interpretation/review of an album by an artist I like and enjoy so much. In general, if you are a fan and or are familiar with George Duke, there are no surprises here. He is 'George Duke'; Composer, Arranger, Player/Performer and Singer of R&B,Jazz, Fusion, Funk/Fonk etc., etc.,etc., But this is his first offering since the passing of his wife Corine.
I can only assume that losing one's 'Best Friend' must leave a deep hole in one's soul and spirit, and according to one account I picked up on, this was the case, or somewhere there abouts.Lack of desire and drive to 'create'. Or maybe it was the effort to climb out of that hole back to the surface couldn't override his grief.
Whatever it was, he navigated his way through and brought forth this project. He broke out all the tools and assembled assistance with it that brings excitement and even holds a part of sadness of its own, which he addresses.
George Duke....well, he's just being 'George Duke' utilizing his arsenal of Keyboards, Synths, Piano and like that. The Jazz is there, the R&B is there and plenty-nuff Funk. From the 'mysterious sounding' Dreamweaver through to the tribute in the end, 'Happy Trails' (NOT yo daddy's 'Happy Trails'),that could be a tribute to his wife and Teena Marie, he is George Duke as we have always known.
DREAMWEAVER is a triumph for George Duke. It is a fitting example of the win over grief and tragedy and climbing out of the hole bringing forth 'The Funk'. And if 'The Funk' is with you, who can stand against you?
Press Release: George Duke - Dreamweaver
OUT OF DEVASTATING PAIN COMES DREAMWEAVER FROM KEYBOARDIST/COMPOSER/ARRANGER/PRODUCER GEORGE DUKE
New disc set for release July 16, 2013 on Heads Up International
Out of devastating pain comes DreamWeaver, the new disc, which GRAMMY Award-winning keyboardist / composer / arranger / producer George Duke considers his "most honest album in several years." The making of DreamWeaver occurred after his wife, Corine, passed away. Struck with grief, he found it difficult to work during that period. "I didn't feel like creating any music, which was odd, because normally that's the easiest thing for me to do," he says, "Sometimes, I would walk into the studio and say, 'Nah. It's not going to happen.'"
Duke's mojo returned while on a Capital Cruise. During the first couple of days, he didn't play any music, but did check out some of the other bands. "By the third day, something happened," he remembers. After returning to his cabin around 4 a.m. from listening to music, inspiration ignited. "I went back on the deck and watched the sun come up. A couple of songs started coming to me; I got out my pen and paper, and started writing."
With the assistance of an illustrious cast of musicians that includes bassists Christian McBride and Stanley Clarke; singers Teena Marie, Lalah Hathaway, Rachelle Ferrell, and Jeffrey Osborne; guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. and the late Jef Lee Johnson; among others, DreamWeaver, set for release July 16, 2013 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, finds Duke emphasizing more instrumentals than in the past as well as concentrating more on his mastery on various synthesizers.
Like the bulk of Duke's discography, DreamWeaver accentuates eclecticism with 15 tracks that range from swinging jazz and sweat funk to gospel-inflected pop and sensual R&B ballads. As the title implies, Duke likens mixing all of the idioms to weaving a sonic fabric. He also compares that stylistic dynamism to life. "Everything is in transition - from hot to cold, from life to death," he philosophizes, "I wanted to incorporate that kind of thing and include a lot of things that are a part of my life."
The disc begins and ends with allusions of nothingness, starting with the title track, a sparse etude, and finishes with "Happy Trails," a misty ballad that was at first just dedicated to Duke's wife, but later gained more emotional poignancy because of the sudden passing of Johnson, whose distinctive guitar work fades out the conclusion. In between, the disc unfolds with the evocative, mid-tempo modern jazz composition, "Stones of Orion," showcasing Duke's crystalline piano improvisations along with longtime collaborator Clarke on upright bass; the feisty 15-minute workout, "Burnt Sausage Jam," a track that Duke refurbished from his 2002 Facing the Music sessions with Johnson, McBride, and drummer Lil' John Roberts; the frisky gangster-leaning groover, "Round the Way Girl;" the feet-friendly burner, "Jazzmatazz;" and the heartfelt ballad, "Missing You," another direct tribute to Duke's wife.
The whimsical "Trippin'" is Duke at his most autobiographical as the lyrics go down memory lane and touch upon his formative years in California's Bay Area, where as a kid, he heard legendary musicians such as Les McCann and Ray Charles, and eventually becoming a jazz musician, particularly due to his work with the iconic Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. In fact, the song's recurring "Ahoom!" is a discreet shout out to Cannonball, because it was a phrase that the alto saxophonist would often use.
The simmering ballad, "Ball and Chain," features some of the last recorded vocal works from R&B songstress, Teena Marie, who died in 2010. Duke worked with Marie on her 2009 Stax Records disc, Congo Square. Afterward, she wanted Duke to produce a full-length jazz album. "Ball and Chain" is one of the tunes that came from those sessions before Marie's untimely passing. Duke offered the song to Beautiful, Marie's 2013 posthumous disc, but the producers declined. With the blessings of Marie's daughter, Alia Rose and Marie's estate, Duke added horns and releases it here.
Another standout is "Change the World," an all-star vocal tour de force featuring Hathaway, Osborne, Freddie Jackson, BeBe Winans, and Howard Hewett. In the tradition of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," and U.S.A. for Africa's "We Are the World," it's a gospel-inflected message song, pleading for global unity. "Musicians need to talk about the issues of the day, realizing that the probability of making any kind of change in the world is more than likely a pipe dream anyway. But that doesn't mean you can't say it or act on it. Music should tell the truth," Duke says.
With almost a half a century career, Duke is one today's most prolific living jazz legends. From leading a jazz trio with a young Al Jarreau during his formative years to working with Jean-Luc Ponty, which afforded Duke's first recording contract with MPS Records and his first exposure to Europe, to his incredible work with Adderley, drummer Billy Cobham, and Frank Zappa, to his cherished stream of jazz-funk records in the '70s, Duke found his mark not only in his eclecticism, but also his signature approach to the synthesizer, which often prized less pyrotechnics in favor of blues elements.
"I didn't hear anybody playing the blues on the synthesizer," Duke recalls, "When I was with Billy Cobham, I said, 'We need to bring some R&B into fusion,' because at that time, it just seemed like people were just playing a lot of notes really fast, especially on the synthesizer. I thought it would work if we put an R&B vibe into the fusion element to reach the people."
He keeps that quality intact as evidenced on DreamWeaver. "For me, I need the blues in there; that Ancient Source that really emanated from Africa," he says when asked about his approach to jazz, "Jazz formed from the merging of European and African elements in a spontaneous context, so if you take away either element from the music, it ceases to be living, growing and ever changing real jazz, for me."
A Few Minutes with the Legendary George Duke
If there was ever an artist whose career truly embodies the term "Great Black Music From The Ancient To The Future", it's George Duke! A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to talk with George Duke in a short telephone conversation from Los Angeles, about both his career and his new album called "Dukey Treats."
Geoge Duke On Musical Categories:
Since I had never spoken with George Duke before I started out the conversation by introducing myself to him and explaining what the Soul-Patrol.com website was about. I told him that I had been a fan of his music since the 1970's and that although the site itself had it's origins in the music of the 1970's (specificly funk music), that it had long since evolved to have a much wider scope. Today the scope of the site was something that we refered to (borrowed from the AACM) as "Great Black Music From The Anicent To The Future." George stopped me right there and said; "I am totally comfortable with that, because that's exactly what my music is and for that reason, many people have a difficult time trying to categorize me or my music." George said; "musicians & albums should not be bound by categories such as rock, r&b, straight ahead jazz, etc. My albums are always multi-stylistic and try to take people on a musical adventure."
George Duke On The New Album Dukey Treats:
"In the Beginning I thought that I was gonna do a straight up funk album. Of course as I got into it, the album evolved into a tribute to the old school and so far the response has been overwhelming. The album contains a whole lotta funk music, I am a huge fan of George Clinton and I am a full blown Funkateer. I wanted to have some fun with the funk and also pay tribute to that music for people who weren't here the first time around. The album also contains some songs which have a mellow jazzy/r&b kinda flava as well because I also wanted to pay tribute to that style of music as well. The album also has some serious cuts on it that deal with the situation in Dafar, designed to rasie awareness. The album is called DUKEY TREATS, because my nickname is DUKEY." It also has some special guests like Howard Hewitt & Teena Marie! I asked George if he was concerned that there might be some folks who might be "confused" because of the multiple kinds of styles and he said "my albums have always contained multiple musical styles. They shouldn't care about the styles and simply judge the music on it's own worth."
George Duke on Stanley Clarke, Frank Zappa & Other Influences:
--Stanley Clarke: Stanley and I have worked together often in the past and may do so again in the future. Right now he is working with Victor Wooten & Marcus Miller on a bass players project called "Thunder" and he is also working on the movie "Soul Men", which is due out soon. I told George that although I liked his & Stanley's cover of "Mothership Connection", I liked their funked up cover of "Louie Louie", from the same album even better. George laughed and said that "the critcs hated our version of "Louie Louie", in fact one critic said that it was the worst version of the song that had ever been done. I don't think that they liked the idea that a couple of "jazz-funk" guys were covering the song." I told George that in my opinion those critics don't know what they are talking about and that in fact, I'd be willing to bet that it's author, Richard Berry would have loved George & Stanley's version.
--Frank Zappa: Frank Zappa was very eclectic. At the time when I met Frank Zappa, I was a straight ahead jazz player and he encouraged me to expand. Frank Zappa taught me how to make music that was commercial and experimental at the same time.
--Other Influences: Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Ray Charles, Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann, Bill Evans, Chick Corea and my Church Organist when I was a kid.
I enjoyed my conversation with George Duke. I told him at the beginning of the call that I don't like to do telephone interviews at all, but that I wanted to get his input for this edition of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter. He put me at ease quickly, told me that he was familiar with the Newsletter and had been getting it via email. George also told me that when he came east we could get together in person for a longer interview. All in all he seems like a pretty cool guy that knows exactly where he wants to go from both a musical & business perspective, even though as fans we should be used to being surprised by George Duke.
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