The first time I heard the keyboardist extraordinaire George Duke was in 1980, when I heard his album, “Brazilian Love Affair”.
Its Brazilian rhythms was a refreshing change of pace from what I’ve head before in R&B. But it was a surprise to know the range of music George Duke had during his musical career.
In 1969, Duke first made a name for himself with the album, “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio”, widely believed to be one of the first jazz fusion albums. The next year, Duke collaborated with Frank Zappa and “The Mothers of Invention” on numerous albums, including the rock classic, “200 Motels”.
Duke continued to collaborate in the recording studio with some of the greats in music, including Billy Cobham, Cannonball Adderley, Dianne Reeves, Deniece Williams, Jeffrey Osborne, George Clinton, Anita Baker and Regina Belle. He also served as a producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on Miles Davis albums: “Backyard Ritual” (from Tutu, 1986) and “Cobra” (from Amandla, 1989).
But it was his work with bass player Stanley Clarke that would give him his biggest commercial success. In 1981, the album, “The Clarke-Duke Project” developed his first Top 40 hit “Sweet Baby”, reaching #20 on Billboard’s pop charts and #6 on its R&B chart.
The duo would collaborate on two more albums.
His most frequent song on our airwaves was the smooth and soulful tune, “No Rhyme, No Reason”. Rachelle Ferrell added her amazing vocals to the classic R&B track.
In all, Duke recorded 30 solo albums, the final one released last month entitled, “DreamWeaver”. Duke’s wife, Corine, died from cancer last year, and was a touching tribute to her.
Smooth Jazz and More will remember the late George Duke by playing many of his great tunes over his illustrious career for the rest of August.
May he rest in peace.