The jazz world mourns the loss of one of its most talented keyboardists today. George Duke, a pioneering musician who also mastered and meshed the worlds of funk and R&B, has died. He was 67.
Duke was born January 12, 1946, in San Rafael in the North Bay Area of California. Attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Duke earned his bachelor’s degree in trombone,later earning a master’s in composition from San Francisco State. A prolific composer and collaborator, Duke released dozens of albums as a bandleader and side man over the course of his four decades-plus career.
The Grammy Award winner performed composition and keyboard work for names such as Miles Davis, Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa and more. Credited as one of the leaders of “jazz fusion,” Duke made a splash working alongside French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty for the live 1969 album, Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio.
Duke had been contending with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, finally succumbing to his condition. The family has issued a statement tanking Duke’s fans and supporters.
“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 his son, Rashid Duke via statement. “Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support.”
Music producers and artists, most especially in the world of Hip-Hop, have sampled heavily from Duke’s vast catalog. Kanye West, MF DOOM, Big K.R.I.T. and Pete Rock have all built their songs around Duke’s busy keys and bass lines.
Duke and frequent partner Stanley Clarke played the Jazz Fest in New Orleans earlier this year. Still sharp as ever, Duke dazzled fans with his unique ability to shift sounds.
Duke’s contribution to music will live on, as evidenced by DJ mixes and show sets already erected in the keyboardist’s honor.
Rest In Powerful Peace, George Duke.