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bacigalup 08-07-13 07:47 AM

George Duke, jazz keyboardist, dead at 67

George Duke, the master keyboardist who bridged jazz, R&B, funk, and Brazilian music, died Monday at St John’s Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 67.

He was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Duke’s passing comes just over a year after the death of his wife, Corine, from cancer last July. The keyboardist dedicated his just-released album, “DreamWeaver,” to her memory

In a career that spanned more than 40 years, Duke worked with stars including Michael Jackson, on 1979’s “Off The Wall,” Miles Davis, producing and composing tracks on several key albums of the ‘80s, and Frank Zappa, with whom he appeared on “Mothers of Invention” albums from 1970 through the early ‘90s.

Duke, who was born in San Rafael, Calif., began taking piano lessons at age 4, after seeing Duke Ellington perform.

“I don’t remember it too well ... but my mother told me I went crazy,” Duke said on his website. “I ran around saying, ‘Get me a piano, get me a piano!”

Duke studied trombone, contrabass and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory, where he graduated in 1967. But his made his name expressing himself on a wide variety of keyboards, from acoustic piano to clavinet to all manner of synthesizers.

Taking influence from Miles Davis, he became a key player in the development of jazz-fusion in the late ‘60s, particularly after collaborating with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. The release of their joint album, “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with The George Duke Trio,” cemented his reputation in 1969.

Duke veered into the avant-garde through his work with Zappa, which began with 1970’s “Chunga’s Revenge.” He also appeared in the Zappa movie “200 Motels” in 1971 and played on important Mothers’ albums like “Over-Nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe.”

The Grammy-winning star made major waves in the rhythm and blues world by collaborating with musicians from George Clinton to Anita Baker Smokey Robinson to Regina Belle. In the ‘70s, he established his deep connection to Brazilian music, recording and performing with Milton Nascimento, Flora Purim, and Airto Moreira.

In the hip-hop world, the keyboardist’s songs have been sampled by acts from Daft Punk to Kanye West to Ice Cube.

Since 1976, Duke issued more than 40 albums under his own name, some in collaboration with drummer Billy Cobham or bassist Stanley Clarke. A song by Clarke and Duke, “Sweet Baby,” became a Top 20 Billboard Pop hit. Throughout his career, Duke had the ability to make synthetic instruments — like the ARP Odyssey and Prophet 5 — sound soulful. His playing could be sensitive or disruptive, but in any guise, it showed total command.

He is survived by two sons, Rashid and John. Funeral services will be private.

“The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father’s friends, fans, and the entire music community has been overwhelming,” said Rashid in a statement.

Upon hearing the news of his passing, jazz flutist Bobi Humphrey posted on her Facebook page, “George Duke! Forty years, my friend! Heaven! A little bit funkier!”

bootsy 08-07-13 10:21 AM

Re: George Duke, jazz keyboardist, dead at 67
Huge loss. RIP. Duke was awesome.

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