Wednesday, 7 August 2013

RIP George Duke 1946 - 2013

More bad news on the airwaves, however this time around it's someone pretty close to my musical tastes. After suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, legendary keyboardist and Zappa player George Duke passed away on Monday this week, just one month after his last album was released to the world. It's a stroke of irony that this album was dedicated to his late wife who died last year (nearly a whole year ago), but it serves as a fond farewell to his fans.

Whilst an accomplished pianist, it was Frank Zappa who convinced him to try electronic keyboards and synthesisers, with which he added a new string to his musical bow and spawned whole new sounds. Here, with Stanley Clarke on his performance of School Days on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Duke uses several vintage analogue synthesisers to great effect to build up solos and atmosphere - together with his distinctive look as a Keytar player.

With a career spanning several decades of music, including Funk, Fusion, Jazz, Disco and much more besides as a session player for several (late) greats of the music world, there is plenty to recommend in his back catalogue. Even new material from him is pretty good, but of course there are some stand out albums - The Aura Will Prevail is my particular favourite. Youtube has plenty of great albums covered there and I really encourage you to check him out.

Something I always come back to when it comes to George Duke is his presence at all the major trade shows, in particular NAMM and the Bob Moog Foundation. If anything, the below video of him demonstrating the Rhodes 7 is a great example of his lively, playful style: a real expert at work at his favourite instrument, the keyboard. Smooth and cool, with expressions of enjoyment that you really can't fake.

Let's hear it one more time for the late, great George Duke. Rest in peace

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