GEORGE DUKE: ‘Dukey Treats’ (Label: Heads Up)

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GEORGE DUKE: 'Dukey Treats'

Something of a musical chameleon, 62-year-old keyboard maven, George Duke, has developed a unique style that is an amalgam of disparate musical elements. As the result of an ability to assimilate and filter different styles through his own eclectic sensibility, this San Rafael-born musician can effortlessly blend funk, soul, gospel, jazz, Latin music and even rock and create something harmonious, unified and coherent. This new album (his 36th no less, if my calculations are correct) is no exception – those aforementioned stylistic traits are all present here, on an album that mixes cartoonish George Clinton-esque P-Funk workouts (‘A Fonk Tail’ and ‘Creepin”) with mellow jazz (‘Listen Baby’), syncopated, brassy, fusion grooves (‘Images Of Us,’ and ‘Mercy,’ the latter featuring the soulful Josie James on vocals) and sweet soul ballads (exemplified by the classy nocturnal slow-jam, ‘Right On Time’). There’s even an exquisite Earth, Wind & Fire pastiche, ‘Are You Ready,’ which is an uplifting dance number whose horn riffs, beat and harmonic content allude to Maurice White and his crew’s ’70s disco monster, ‘Boogie Wonderland.’ As you’d expect from a musician who has a proven track record as a hit-making record producer as well as being a virtuoso keyboard player, the arrangements gleam with LA studio gloss. Sure, the production is polished and ultra-slick – sometimes, it must be said, to the point of blandness – but there’s also a lot of heart and soul in the performances supplied by Duke and his cohorts (who include Jonathan Butler and Teena Marie – who share the spotlight on the appropriately sombre message song ‘Sudan’ – plus Howard Hewitt, and Sheila E). There’s nothing truly mind-blowing here, but it’s a solid, consistent, and enjoyable set nevertheless – and enough of a well-crafted musical treat to satisfy the most fastidious of the big man’s fans.
(CW) 3/5