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Funk - Released March 23, 2006 | Sony Music Media

First the confusion: The date on the back of this set is 2004, but it's only being issued in 2006. This is one of those mysteries of the recording industry. Okay: the music. The Essential George Duke is a double-disc, 31-track set documenting George Duke's years with Epic between 1977 and 1984 that netted an astonishing 11 albums, and the third Stanley Clarke/Duke project disc recorded in 1990. These were the years that Duke -- never a jazz purist anyway -- decided to take a tough swing at the R&B charts. He succeeded. The heyday of disco certainly had its appeal for Duke, but so did funk and urban soul. This was also the period when he enjoyed chart success in the States with the classic funk jam "Reach for It," from the album of the same name, and "Dukey Stick" -- both tracks deeply influenced, if not outright extrapolated from George Clinton's P-Funk sound -- complete with inflated bass, party backing vocals, loose dialogue thrown in, and the obligatory "take it to the bridge." But what the hell, these tunes sound as fine now as they did then! They've aged well. Most of the material here has. Duke is a master musician, and despite the many players who have come through his bands, the core -- Sheila E., Byron Miller, Ricky Lawson, Ndugu Leon Chancler, Charles Johnson, Lynn Davis, Josie James, Napoleon "Napi" Brocks -- never let him down in the studio. Wise editing decisions allow the listener to hear multiple cuts from albums like Don't Let Go, Follow the Rainbow, A Brazilian Love Affair, both Clarke/Duke project discs, (and one from the third), Rendezvous, and Guardian of the Light. Only the title track is here for "Reach for It," but it's the right one. The bonus material is a bit dodgy but still fun, and includes the 12" versions of "Dukey Stick," and "Reach for It." Jazz fans who abandoned Duke during these years will find little to interest them, but those out there searching used record stores for classic funk and disco recordings will find this a treasure trove of tough, slick grooves. Recommended. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released September 11, 1998 | Warner Records

After years of producing albums which were more pop/funk than jazz oriented, George Duke simmers down, leaves off the R&B vocals, and takes a little creative license on the self-proclaimed "mood record" After Hours. While his recent Muir Woods Suite showed off his affinity for classical music, here he's at his best on the meditative Vince Guaraldi-type trio ballads "Together as One" and "Sweet Dreams," which glide along on the improvisational and gently swinging graces of Christian McBride and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. A whole project in this vein would have been welcome, but Duke charters other new territory, too; on the easy grooving "The Touch" and the almost new agey "From Dusk Till Dawn," he borrows the actual Rhodes from Joe Sample but winds up perfectly simulating Bob James' "Taxi" vibe, especially on the exploratory solo on the latter tune. The untrained ear might swear it's an actual James recording, but Duke's a clever enough producer to go beyond strict imitation. "The Touch" achieves an intriguing low-toned brew, as Sheridon Stokes' bass flute melody drifts gently over a hypnotic weave of Larry Kimpel's bass and Duke's Rhodes. And Duke switches off liberally from piano to synth to Rhodes on the frenetic, McBride and Chancler driven musical traffic jam "Rush Hour/Road Rage," the only piece which recalls the zaniness of Duke's best hard hitting R&B, only with a tougher fusion approach. Sound effects of a closing car door and shoes on pavement form the open door for the more relaxing, but never dull, evening that is to follow. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released May 15, 2015 | MPS

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Jazz - Released May 15, 2015 | MPS

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Jazz - Released May 15, 2015 | MPS

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Jazz - Released May 15, 2015 | MPS

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Jazz - Released July 10, 2015 | MPS

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Jazz - Released September 5, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Pop - Released September 5, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

Coming to the close of his tenure with Epic records, Duke's great work seemed to be overshadowed by bunk. At the same time, he was becoming an in-demand producer with assignments from Jeffrey Osborne, Phillip Bailey, and Deniece Williams filling his schedule. Guardian of the Light reflects that strain. Released in 1983, Guardian of the Light also had the added baggage of a hard-to-follow concept of a fictional character's mystical exploits. This being George Duke, although the idea is odd, he was sure to get some good songs done here. It doesn't come easily however. Despite the good intentions, "Light," "Shane," and "Reach Out" differ little from the melodically challenged songs that typified his post-Brazilian Love Affair efforts. That being said, Guardian of the Light does include a classic. The gorgeous and soaring "You (Are the Light)" has Duke giving a particularly strong vocal performance. Duke also does one of his best Rhodes solos on the track as well. "Born to Love You" is also very affecting. This album closes with the rock-influenced and surprisingly effective "Fly Away." This effort is worth seeking out for its highs, but the middling work does seem to win out here. ~ Jason Elias
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Jazz - Released June 15, 2018 | Heads Up

On Dukey Treats, George Duke returns to the big FONK of the late '70s and early '80s on this set for Heads Up. In truth, it's a bit of a surprise given the sheer laid-back tone of 2006's In a Mellow Tone, which was a piano trio date, but then, Duke hasn't been predictable for some time. What is interesting is that this return to the music that made him a commercial superstar and a platinum-selling artist coincides with a look back at his early fusion catalog by Universal in Japan, Europe, and the United States. In 2008 there have been two separate releases of Feel -- an elegant Japanese one designed for export by SPV and a bargain-priced edition in Verve's Originals series. In addition, MPS in Germany has released My Soul: The Complete MPS Fusion Recordings. But Dukey Treats isn't a fusion record. Instead, it's a funk and slick uptown soul outing. Duke surrounds himself with friends old and new on this set, including Sheila E. on percussion and backing vocals, a full horn section (including Michael "Patches" Stewart on trumpet and saxophonist Everette Harp), Jef Lee Johnson on guitars, and vocalists DeeDee Foster, Josie James, and Lynn Davis, as well as guest appearances by Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and Wah Wah Watson, among others. The music walks an interesting line between backbone-slipping, hip-wriggling funk jams reminiscent of not only Duke's early experiments with the form, but also of Don Blackman's and George Clinton's -- and modern, silky rich, velvety sophisticated soul. The title track is a great example with killer bass work by Byron Miller (who steals the show right from the groove) and nifty accompanying synth and clavinet bass by Duke. The album opener, "Everyday Hero," is a basic hard jazz funk chant, with smoking horn work and with tough bass by Michael Manson. Duke's Rhodes and clavinet shape the front of the tune while a chorus of vocalists uses the few words as another rhythmic element. (In his solo, Duke even nods to his time spent with Frank Zappa in one of his codas.) Elsewhere, such as on "I Tried to Tell You," the horns introduce a shimmering uptown ballad underscored by Duke's acoustic piano and synth strings. The soulful thang comes floating down to the listener via the twinned overdubbed electric guitars of Johnson and the oh-so-smooth vocals of James, Foster, and James Gilstrap. Another of these late-night ballads is "Listen Baby," with a shockingly solid vocal performance by Duke (they were never his strong point) trying to do his best Marvin Gaye. "A Fonk Tail" (sic) segues into the title track, and together they are so reminiscent of the Clinton P-Funk thang that they might as well be a tribute -- but they jam. Jazz fusion does make one entry on this set in "Images of Us." Duke plays a smoking Rhodes solo and synths it up, along with a four-piece horn section, rolling breaks by Ron Bruner, Jr., Manson's bass, and Johnson's guitar working the intricate changes. They turn in a knotty, groove-laden performance. Dukey Treats is a mixed bag, but it works well. It's the brightest and most enjoyable (as in "fun") record Duke has done in at least a decade, and scatalogical cover references aside (you can't mistake the title "Dukey Treats" with the image of a box of chocolates and Duke holding a keytar-shaped one in his fingers for anything else), this set is a winner. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released May 1, 1979 | Legacy Recordings

George Duke had been fairly visible in the R&B world thanks to funk gems like "Reach for It" and "Dukey Stick" when he ventured to Rio to record A Brazilian Love Affair, a superb date employing such greats as singers Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento and percussionist Airto Moreira. Although not the return to instrumental jazz some hoped it would be, this heartfelt effort does contain its share of jazz-influenced material. From a jazz standpoint, the CD's most noteworthy songs include Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela," the charming "Brazilian Sugar," "Love Reborn," and the exuberant "Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite." Meanwhile, Nascimento's vocal on the ballad "Ao Que Vai Nascer" is a fine example of Brazilian pop at its most sensuous. But however one labels or categorizes this music, the album is clearly a labor of love from start to finish. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released April 5, 2009 | Warner Records

Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 12, 1993, but not released for two-and-a-half years, George Duke's Muir Woods Suite is a musical work for orchestra (L'orchestre National de Lille, conducted by Ettore Strata) and jazz group (himself on piano, Stanley Clarke on bass, Chester Thompson on drums, Paulinho Dacosta on percussion). As that combination suggests, it's eclectic. Some sections make full use of the orchestra in passages reminsicent of 19th century classical music, but then a bass or drum solo leads into a jazz section. Consistently engaging, but disparate, the suite has the air of a movie soundtrack. ~ William Ruhlmann
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R&B - Released August 12, 2016 | Epic - Legacy

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Jazz - Released August 8, 2000 | Warner Jazz

Cool is George Duke's sixth release for the Warner Brothers Jazz recording label and features 13 songs clad in situations actually encountered and lived by this giant of jazz, R&B, and pop. The Duke lifestyle makes a dramatic appearance through his richly textured vocal remembrances of his childhood on "Marin City" and spoken introductions that reflect the inner and ancestral sources that feed his soul and music on "Ancient Source." Duke displays the joyous, upbeat side of his musical personality on "If You Will," with the great Flora Purim in a lively samba with excellent piano styling and background vocals that include his son, Rashid Duke. The nucleus of this masterpiece is "The Times We've Known," a song Duke discovered when asked to do a tribute to Charles Aznavour. It is a beautiful, heartfelt experience featuring a gospel choir that heightens what Duke feels and says in a rousing finale. Cool is a CD filled with a diverse range of musical styles and expressions, and whether he is the lead vocalist, keyboardist, or providing background vocals, the master is the architect of funk, pop, Latin, gospel, blues, and R&B passion on this excellent musical mission. As composer, arranger, and musical director, George Duke maintains and elevates the styles and spirit of the House of Duke and works in brilliant collaboration with a support team of consummate artists like Leon "Ndugu" Chanceler, Philip Bailey, Tony Maiden, Chanté Moore, Paul Jackson, Jr., and the Perry Sisters: Lori, Sharon, Darlene, and Carolyn. So cool! ~ Paula Edelstein
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R&B - Released April 5, 2009 | Warner Records

Although George Duke planned to make this recording half R&B and half jazz, the former dominates. In fact, other than brief moments from the keyboardist/leader and short contributions by the likes of Dianne Reeves, Everette Harp, George Howard, Norman Brown and Jonathan Butler, this is essentially a highly produced R&B set (even if it rose high on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart). The rating is for its danceable qualities, some catchy melodies and the high musicianship. Those listeners not enamored with Duke's vocal talents are advised to look elsewhere. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released September 18, 1992 | Warner Jazz

With a several decade career as an artist and producer successfully spanning the realms of bebop, fusion, soul, and funk, nothing gives George Duke more pleasure than being able to go back to his basics as an acoustic jazz pianist on his smooth, multifaceted Warner Bros. debut, Snapshot. The keyboardist takes listeners on a whimsical, generally cool journey through the myriad styles he's purveyed over the years: Latin, pop, R&B, and live-in-the-studio jazz. Snapshot seems divided by Duke's pop sensibilities and these urges to simplify those electronic trappings. The grooving "History (I Remember)" and the breezy "Geneva" smooth out the rough edges perfectly, but it's the easy funk of the message tune, "Fame," which seems most inspired. A fiery acoustic piano run combines with Gary Grant/Jerry Hey horns for a perfect texturing of Duke's jazz and top pop hit-producing resumes. Tunes like the title track and "The Morning After" are fairly mundane, on the other hand, a little too generic in the quiet storm department, but, overall, Snapshot nicely reflects the state of Duke circa early '90s smooth jazz. Cut through the chaff and the remaining wheat here represents an artist pretty much doing what he does best: a little bit of everything in a mostly artistically satisfying manner. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released January 20, 1995 | Warner Records

George Duke is truly a music virtuoso. From his many contributions as a producer, arranger, writer, musician, and singer, the California native has laid down one grand effort after another. On this album, first and foremost, Duke utilizes this vast platform to express his musical passions. And in his own ingenious way, he voices his indiscreet discernment on the many virtues and vices of society. This set is eclectic, and at times, audaciously eccentric. Of the 13 selections, four are instrumentals and several are tinted with a sweet R&B coating. However, every number is seasoned with Duke's indelible jazzy melodies and interludes. The Synclavier-toting keyboardist is supported by an outstanding cast of performers, which includes the Emotions, Marvin Winans, Stanley Clarke, James Ingram, and Dianne Reeves, to name a few. ~ Craig Lytle
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Jazz - Released May 1, 1978 | Epic - Legacy

With a hot funk band and a big hit, "Reach for It," behind him, George Duke appears mostly in his persona as R&B star on this ebullient package of sometimes Latin-inflected '70s funk. The centerpiece is a self-parodic bit of shuck and jive called "Dukey Stick," which became a number four hit single on the R&B charts (at his gigs, Duke used to flaunt a gaudy, lit-up, perhaps phallic wand, the "Dukey stick," during this number). The percussion section is pretty potent, staffed by Leon "Ndugu" Chancler and Sheila Escovedo in her pre-pop star days; they even get a Latin workout of their own simply titled "Percussion Interlude." While some of Duke's considerable keyboard and electronic prowess breaks through now and then, this album is mainly aimed at the R&B market, as the preponderance of soul vocals indicates. As such, it is a cut or two above the routine fare of the time, though not as infectious as its predecessor Reach for It. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released February 20, 1996 | Epic

The Best of George Duke is a fine ten-track overview of the funk keyboardist's late-'70s/early-'80s recordings, containing all three of his Top Ten R&B hits ("Reach for It," "Dukey Stick," "Sweet Baby") plus a good selection of minor hits and album tracks. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released June 15, 2004 | Epic - Legacy

Keyboardist/composer George Duke has been through a myriad of stylistic changes over his long career, from straight-ahead jazz to fusion to funk and R&B, not to mention being a key member of Frank Zappa's band for a while. The George Duke presented on this compilation is the slicker, more accessible one who enjoyed pop success as an R&B tunesmith and lite-jazz merchant. The smooth soul sound of the hit "Sweet Baby," recorded during Duke's partnership with Stanley Clarke, wouldn't sound out of place on a Maze album, while synth-flavored cuts "Corine" and "Love Reborn" are closer to Bob James/Dave Grusin territory. Duke took yet another detour in 1979 with his BRAZILIAN LOVE AFFAIR album, from which two cuts are included here, but the emphasis is on vocal-oriented mainstream R&B ballads delivered with a soft touch and a veteran craftsman's skill.