Contemporary Jazz

Funky All Over Again


When you've been around the pop, R&B, funk, jazz, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa worlds as long as George Duke has, it's a lot of fun experiencing Déjà Vu, the name of his latest "dukey treat" on Heads Up.

Legend has it that when the composer and keyboardist was 4-years-old, his mother took him to see another Duke (Ellington) in concert and he went crazy, running around, shouting "Get me a piano!" He began studying the piano at the age of 7, and after he started digging into the roots of black music at his local Baptist church in San Rafael, California, there was no stopping him.

"I really learned a lot about music from the church," he said, "the way it could trigger emotions in a cause and effect relationship."

Downbeat called his 2008 joint Dukey Treats "a wild and crazy album" steeped in glorious funk nostalgia, so it only makes sense that the multi-talented performer would stir the same old school musical ripples -- focusing this time on the classic synthesizer sound that was part of the classic funk era and Duke's own early recordings. Longtime Dukeologists will no doubt see a resemblance to his mid-'70s albums Feel and The Aura Will Prevail, and that's by design.

But, there are also nods to straight-ahead and contemporary jazz on cool, swinging pieces like "Stupid Is As Stupid Does" (whose Rhodes energy and colorful improvisations by Hubert Laws, Nicholas Payton and Bob Sheppard would impress Forrest Gump and many others) and the atmospheric, Miles-inspired trippy jazz gem "Ripple In Time," featuring Oscar Brashear on trumpet).