Jazz Profiles: George Duke, Keyboard Across the Ages

The scope of keyboardist-composer-producer George Duke's imprint on jazz and pop music over the past 40 years is almost impossible to calculate. He has collaborated with some of the most prominent figures in the industry. A producer since the 1980s, he has crafted scores of fine recordings-many of them Grammy winners-for artists who represent almost every corner of the contemporary American music landscape.

Duke has experimented with jazz and fusion by collaborating and performing with artists as diverse as Jean Luc-Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham, and Stanley Clarke. Possibly his best-loved album, Brazilian Love Affair was released in 1980, featuring vocals by Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento, and percussion by Airto Moreira.

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Duke made his mark as a versatile producer by helping to craft recordings by a broad cross-section of jazz, R&B, and pop artists: Miles Davis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, A Taste of Honey, Jeffrey Osborne, Deniece Williams, Melissa Manchester, Al Jarreau, Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, Take 6, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Lyle Lovett, Sarah Vaughan, Rachelle Ferrell, Natalie Cole, Dianne Reeves, Smokie Norful, Najee, and many others.

In 2000, Duke launched BPM (Big Piano Music), his own record label. Even with the new responsibilities and challenges, he has continued to juggle the multiple career tracks of recording solo albums, international touring, and producing records for other artists. In addition to his own Face the Music (2002), he has also produced tracks for Wayman Tisdale, Dianne Reeves, Kelly Price, Regina Belle, and Marilyn Scott.

For the better part of 25 years, Duke has composed and recorded numerous scores for film and television. In addition to nine years as the musical director for Soul Train, he also wrote music for The Five Heartbeats; The Karate Kid, Part III; Leap of Faith; Good Fences; Never Die Alone; and The Meteor Man.


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