In one of life’s all too often sad coincidences just as we here at SoulandJazzandFunk were working on a review of keyboard maestro GEORGE DUKE’S latest album, ‘Dreamweaver’, we received the devastating news that GEORGE had died on Monday 5th August at St John’s Hospital, California. No cause of death was given.
GEORGE DUKE, who was born in San Rafael, California in January 1946, enjoyed a long, varied, distinguished and garlanded career. Like many jazz and soul artists, Duke began his musical odyssey in the local Baptist church though he also underwent a formal musical education too – graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
From then on he worked with a litany of jazz greats – Al Jarreau, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Jean-Luc Ponty, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie and Stanley Clarke amongst them. Working with people like Billy Cobham he also pioneered experimental jazz fusion and he even worked with Frank Zappa.
He recorded a spate of acclaimed solo albums – the best known probably being 1980’s ‘Brazilian Love Affair’. George also worked as a producer, arranger, and musical director and, for a time in the early 2000s, he even ran his own record label – BPM (Big Piano Music).
But it’s for his more than 30 albums that George Duke will be best remembered. The last of those albums – ‘Dreamweaver’ was released in July of this year and featured an array of guests (including Christian McBride, Teena Marie and Lalah Hathaway) – high calibre names regularly queued to work with him. Duke said the album was his “most honest in several years” – recorded at a difficult personal time…. his wife Corrine passed away during the sessions.
News of George Duke’s death came from Ron Brewington of the Motown Alumni Association (MAA). He was informed of George’s passing from former Supremes member Scherrie Payne in the statement – “I just received the devastating and sad news that the great musician, George Duke, passed away this evening at St. John’s hospital in L.A. It was just one year earlier, July 18th, that his beloved wife and my friend, Corine, went to be with the Lord. Please keep his sons, Rasheed and John, in your prayers.“
George Duke, 12th January 1946 – 5th August 2013,