Classics: George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair (Epic)
Pretty much illustrative of what the 70’s were about. As a matter of fact, one of (if not the…) most exciting periods creatively speaking. With musicians hailing from whatever horizons fusing different vibes. Beginning with countless Jazz heads comin’ to jam like crazy in the Dance Music scene. Therefore melting their influences with Soul, Funk when not Disco!
Herbie Hancock, Idris Muhammad. But also Alphonse Mouzon or Quincy Jones… As many greats who dared breaking the boundaries, eventually losin’ a part of their fan base at the time. With famous keyboardist/singer George Duke makin’ no exception beginning with ‘Brazilian Love Affair’, the title cut of his album of the likes… An album which he recorded back in 1979 in Rio de Janeiro.
Unsurprisingly, he would team up with local talents. From singers Fiora Purim and Milton Nascimento. To musicians Roland Bautista on guitar and Airto Moreira on percussion.
Despite and also because the complexity of its rhythm part, ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ just stands as a rare evidence. With extra big ups to Byron Miller who fires things up on bass. Meanwhile Duke would reach one of his absolute peaks on electric piano, strings and synths.
Somehow hard to not establish a connection with Azymuth. With their first track coming to mind being the classic ‘Jazz Carnival’. But how to not neither think of Earth, Wind & Fire? And most likely there when referring to its vocal arrangements…
British band Shakatak covered it as a part of their 1994 ‘Full Circle’ album with Don Grusin on piano.
George Duke has built up for himself one of the most impressive CV’s in the history of contemporary music. Born in San Raphael, CA, he found the revelation at the age of 4 after his mom took him to see Duke Ellington and told him about his experiences. Three years later, he began his formal piano studies, building up his musical approach from these early years. Duke turned professional before he left high school. Back then, he played in a Rock group before joining a Latin band called Jaxx Co-Op.
Moving to San Francisco, he launched a resident Jazz trio at a local club. Meanwhile, he majored in trombone and composition at the SF Conservatory. He then spent 3 years touring as pianist with Al Jarreau, before discovering the electric piano.
Duke eventually played and recorded with French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. And he also performed with the Don Ellis Orchestra and Cannonball Adderley’s band. By then, he acquainted himself with Frank Zappa. The two guys opening a series of regular cross-collaborations during the 70’s. This, being how Duke established some connections with Zappa‘s associates Johnny Guitar Watson and Lee Ritenour. Last but not least, it’s also Zappa who encouraged Duke to develop his vocals and work with synthesizers.
By the end of the 70’s, the man established himself as a prominent force in the R&B scene. Meanwhile he would start making an impact on what was to become the UK Jazz/Funk scene. From the infectious bass-driven ‘Reach For It’ featuring Byron Miller. To the most sought after ‘I Want You For Myself’ along with Lynn Davis on vocals. But also ‘Brazilian Love Affair’, ‘Shine On’ and ‘Reach Out’. Not to mention ‘Thief In The Night’ soon after his switch from Epic to Elektra. Meanwhile, on a smoother tip, he would deliver the one of a kind ‘No Rhyme, No Reason’ with Rachelle Ferrell on backing vocals back in 1992. A cut which David Lalla transformed into an outstanding smmoth House groover 15 years after on Fall Out Records, titling it ‘Rhyme Or Reason’.
Also on Epic, he has recorded 3 albums with Stanley Clarke under the Clarke/Duke Project guise. Meanwhile, as a composer or producer, Duke has worked with countless luminaries. From The Blackbyrds to Jeffrey Osborne. But also Miles Davis, Deniece Williams and Howard Hewett. Not to mention Larry Graham or 101 North to name but a few. Guesting as a session musician with cats such as T-Connection, Quincy Jones, The Whispers or more recently Jill Scott.
George Duke sadly passed on Aug. 05, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67…