A brilliant player on both acoustic and electric basses, Stanley Clarke has spent much of his career outside of jazz, although he has the ability to play jazz with the very best. He played accordion as a youth, switching to violin and cello before settling on bass. He worked with R&B and rock bands in high school, but after moving to New York, he worked with Pharoah Sanders in the early '70s. George Duke showed a great deal of promise early in his career as a jazz pianist and keyboardist, but has forsaken that form to be a pop producer.
Deja Vu is 2010's bookend to 2008's Dukey Treats. That record explored George Duke's funk roots and channeled everything from Earth, Wind & Fire to P-Funk, artists who inspired his own successful run of funk outings. Deja Vu revisits Duke's love of electric funky jazz. Here he recalls some of the production and musical techniques he employed in the '70s. Along with playing a load of synths (mono and analog), Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, clavinet, acoustic piano, and even miniMoog bass are in abundance, too. The production is pure retro; compared to the contemporary jazz recordings of the 21st century, Deja Vu sounds almost organic.
Straightforward small combo jazz (basically an electric/acoustic piano trio with occasional guitar, reeds and percussion) of a kind that George Duke's detractors say he has long since abandoned, In a Mellow Tone is indubitably a mainstream jazz record with little adventurous spirit and a sound that occasionally even verges on the easy listening horrors of smooth jazz. However, as such albums go, it's more than pleasant, with Duke's underrated piano and Fender Rhodes technique driving the songs.
Dreamweaver marks George Duke's return to recording after a three-year silence, and his first since the death of his wife Corine in 2012. While he is always diverse, this set is uncommonly so. The opener, a slippery, atmospheric title intro, flows directly into the Latin-tinged "Stones of Orion," a jazz tune with Duke on piano, Rhodes, and synths, Stanley Clarke on upright bass, and a four-piece horn section. It's shimmering groove-oriented jazz that reflects the time that Duke spent with Cannonball Adderley. "Trippin'" is a funky, jazzed-up R&B tune where he offers his autobiography; it features some fine muted trumpet work by Michael Patches Stewart.
In Memeriam. Sad news. Great musician. Rest in peace, George… An amazing package of work from George Duke - 6 of his legendary fusion albums for MPS Records, including the never-reissued double-length set Solus / The Inner Source! That incredible album is worth the price of the package alone - as it begins with some sublime trio work from Duke, rooted in jazz but already stretching out in amazing ways - then moves into some even hipper Latin-styled grooves, with Jerome Richardson on reeds and Luis Gasca on a bit of trumpet! Other albums in the set are equally great - and trace Duke's evolution from straighter jazz into funky freer fusion and soul - an incredible musical shift that's presented on the albums Faces In Reflection, Feel, I Love The Blues She Heard My Cry, The Aura Will Prevail, and Liberated Fantasies - each of them classics in their own right, presented together wonderfully here in this complete MPS package! The set is amazing - with a whopping 64 titles in all, and complete notes on all the music - including some recollections from Duke himself.
The list of heavyweights who join George Duke on 1975's I Love the Blues: She Heard My Cry is impressive – some of the participants include Johnny "Guitar" Watson, singer Flora Purim, percussionist Airto Moreira, guitarist Lee Ritenour, drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, and guitarist George Johnson (of Brothers Johnson fame). With such a cast, one would expect this 1975 LP to be outstanding, which it isn't. But it's a respectable effort that thrives on diversity.