Contemporary Jazz

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God Made Him Funky

26 AUG 08 JONATHAN WIDRAN

After seriously stripping down and chillin' on In A Mellow Tone, George Duke's third release on his own Big Piano Music label, he's back for a wild ride through funkville on his groovingly infectious Heads Up debut Dukey Treats.

Duke was joyfully fusing R&B and jazz long before today's smooth urban jazz phenomenon was happening. And on the 2005 inaugural Dave Koz and Friends At Sea Cruise, Duke got up from his piano after playing his pop hit "Sweet Baby" and declared, "God made me funky, so if you got a problem with that, take it up with Him!"

The title Dukey Treats is a three-decade-old callback to his classic "Dukey Stick." Inventive as ever at 62, the veteran keyboardist remembers when funk was not only great music but a lifestyle and a key contributor to social discourse. Coolly grafting soulful balladry with relentless rhythmic energy, the disc harkens back to the golden age of funk (Sly Stone, George Clinton, are you in the house?) while addressing key issues of our global 21st century.

"Everyday Hero" is a shout out to unsung folks who contribute to our lives (teachers, cops, firefighters, doctors), while "Sudan (It's A Cryin' Shame)" touches on the tragedy of Darfur with the help of Jonathan Butler and Teena Marie. On the lighter side, "Creepin'" (with Christian McBride) is a sharp edged, lighthearted wink at sneakin' around and the Earth, Wind & Fire-influenced "Are You Ready?" taps into the spirit of global unity.