George Duke (Jan. 12, 1946 – Aug. 5, 2013) was an American jazz-funk keyboardist, composer, arranger, and producer who was musically active from the mid-1960s up through the 21st century. During the 1970s and ’80s, he released 21 studio albums.
George M Duke was born on January 12, 1946, in San Rafael, Calif. At age four, he took an interest in piano when his mom took him to a Duke Ellington concert. By age seven, he was taking formal lessons at a local baptist church. Though he initially studied classical music, he was lured into jazz by his cousin, standup bassist Charles Burrell, who urged him to improvise.
While in high school, Duke played in a sequence of jazz bands, plying the catalogs of Miles Davis, Les McCann, and Cal Tjader. In 1967, he earned a bachelor’s degree in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. At nights, he gigged the Bay Area clubs in a jazz trio with vocalist Al Jarreau.
During his time at SFCM, he assembled the the George Duke Quartet with bassist John Heard, trumpeter David Simmons, and drummer George Walker. Their singular album, The George Duke Quartet Presented By The Jazz Workshop 1966 Of San Francisco, was released on SABA (Germany) and MPS (Japan) in 1966.
In 1969, Duke played backing on two albums released on Liberty/UA-subsidiary World Pacific Jazz: Eternal Equinox by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra and Electric Connection by French expat violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. That same year, Duke collaborated with Ponty on the WPJ release The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. It features one original apiece by Duke (“Foosh”) and Ponty (“Contact“) plus compositions by Wolfgang Dauner (“Pamukkale”) and Herbie Hancock (“Canteloupe Island”). The album was recorded on September 24, 1969, with backing by Heard and drummer Dick Berk.
- Save the Country (1970)
- Solus (1971)
- The Inner Source (1973)
- Faces in Reflection (1973)
- Feel (1974)
- The Aura Will Prevail (1975)
- I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry (1975)
- Liberated Fantasies (1976)
- The 1976 Solo Keyboard Album (1976)
- From Me to You (1977)
- Reach for It (1977)
- Don’t Let Go (1978)
- Follow the Rainbow (1979)
- Master of the Game (1979)
- A Brazilian Love Affair (1980)
- Dream On (1982)
- Guardian of the Light (1983)
- Rendezvous (1984)
- Thief in the Night (1985)
- George Duke (1986)
- Night After Night (1989)
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