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The Essential George Duke

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George Duke's prolific career spans five decades and several genres. While classically trained jazz musicians often struggle to appeal to broader audiences and industry veterans often struggle to adapt to new trends, Duke avoided such problems. He was always willing to try something new and therefore remained relevant to several successive generations. The Essential George Duke focuses on the peak of his crossover success, between 1977 and 1984 (with one song, “Mothership Connection,” from 1990). In a whirlwind of productivity, Duke produced a string of hits that included outrageous funk jams (“Dukey Stick,” “Reach for It”), tightly woven disco pop (“Party Down,” “I Want You for Myself,” “Shine On”), smooth soul (“Say That You Will,” “I Just Want to Love You”), and even Brazilian music (“Cravo e Canela,” “Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite”). The consistency of this collection might suggest that Duke aspired to pop perfection, but these songs represent only one segment of a much larger career. Though he never gave up his ambitions as a jazz artist, he deserves equal credit as a master of the dance-pop idiom.


Born: January 12, 1946 in San Rafael, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
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