George Duke Live at Hollywood Bowl August 23rd
Grammy Winning Keyboardist George Duke, an enduring figure in straight-ahead jazz, jazz fusion, R&B and funk since the 1960s, returns to the music forefront with the August 2008 Heads Up debut of Dukey Treats. Inspired by the funny and serious sides of life reflected in the R&B and funk music of the’60s and ’70s, Duke with guests Christian McBride, Sheila E. and Michael “Patches” Stuart plus singers Jonathan Butler, Howard Hewett, Teena Marie and Rachelle Ferrell successfully combined energy with fun. Treat yourself when Duke and band perform live at HOLLYWOOD BOWL – Sunday, August 23rd. Stage time is 6:45pm. Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Los Angeles. For tickets call 323-850-2094 or go online to laphil.org.
Veteran keyboardist and producer George Duke remembers a time when funk was a powerful force – not just in popular music but also in social discourse. Frequently with a measure of wit and irony, titans like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and other funk icons of the ’60s and ’70s boldly addressed societal concerns.
Duke invokes that same combination of wit and wisdom in Dukey Treats, his debut on BPM/Heads Up International released worldwide on August 26, 2008. A careful balance of rhythmic energy and simmering balladry, Dukey Treats recalls the golden age of funk and soul, while at the same time maintaining a fresh sound and addressing issues that are relevant to the global culture of the 21st century. “I didn’t want to drift too far away from the old school sensibility,” Duke explains. “I wanted to do an album where everybody went into the room at the same time and played.”
Among the numerous treats on this album are not just the songs themselves but the roster of high-profile personnel – many of them alumni of Duke’s earlier bands and projects. Included on the guest list are bassist Christian McBride, percussionist Sheila E and trumpeter Michael “Patches” Stewart. Along with Duke, the vocal crew includes Jonathan Butler, Howard Hewett, Teena Marie, Rachelle Ferrell and more.
The high-energy opener, “Everyday Hero,” is a song of praise for the various unsung and under-recognized figures who make daily contributions that often go unnoticed. “A Fonk Tail,” an intergalactic epic full of over-the-top comic moments, is Duke’s nod to Parliament/Funkadelic, who perfected the caricature of the cosmic funk hero back in the early ’70s.
The title track is one of two songs recorded with Duke’s original Dukey Stick band (the other being “Mercy,” just a couple tracks later). On hand are guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, bassist Byron Miller, drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler and percussionist Sheila E. Duke who trades vocal lines with Josie James, Lynn Davis, Darrell Cox and Napoleon “Napi” Brock, while trumpeter Michael “Patches” Stewart rounds out the four-man horn section. The comical “Creepin’,” which features Christian McBride on upright bass, is a rearrangement of a song that first appeared on Duke’s 2002 recording, Face the Music.
Teena Marie and Jonathan Butler join Duke on the more serious side, “Sudan (It’s a Cryin’ Shame)” dealing with the human tragedy that continues in Darfur. “Are You Ready,” the follow-up to “Sudan,” is Duke’s nod to the message of global unity intrinsic in the music of Earth, Wind & Fire.
The closer, “Images of Us,” is essentially “a long keyboard solo,” Duke explains. “It’s a jazz/funk instrumental that is basically a jam vehicle for the rhythm section. I wanted to include a song where I could just dig deep and play.”
Digging deep and coming up with great music is what George Duke has always been about, and Dukey Treats is no exception. It’s a fun and entertaining ride, to be sure, but underneath the occasional tongue-in-cheek posturing and comedic moments – the stuff that made R&B and funk so engaging in the first place – is music of substance that speaks to both the lighter and darker sides of the world we live in.