Duke News

Nov ‘09 - Jan ’11

Hello everybody, I really hope you’re enjoying the look and feel of the new site. Rob Guillory really did a great job and a digital store will soon be included. There you will be able to download tracks, full CD’s, .pdf charts, videos and more.

Well, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written a new Duke News. So here’s where we were and where we are:

On October 31st 2009 – man, I sound like I’m telling an old story – I played a concert with the Metropol Orchestra in Amsterdam, a wonderful show that also featured Napoleon Murphy Brock. The show was materially quite diverse, everything from straight ahead jazz to ultra funk and even some Zappa material.

On November 6th I played a quartet show in Carlsbad for the Moog Museum, a real nice small gathering of music fanatics and the museum has some priceless synth relics.

On the 7th my full band played a show with Anita Baker at the Nokia Theater. The audience was great and as usual Anita was amazing. The rest of the month into December and January I worked on tracks for the second Duke produced album for Larisa Dolina.

I think I mentioned previously that Al Jarreau and I had plans to do some touring together but more like the old days. On February 12th we played our first Jarreau w/the George Duke Trio date in Seattle, Washington at Benaroya Hall. Though it was the maiden voyage, it demonstrated that there was a market for this format and we planned to continue.

I came back to LA and continued work on the Déjà vu CD and Larisa’s new CD pretty much at the same time. March 1st found me performing and acting as MD for a benefit show for the Thelonius Monk Institute in LA at Vibrato. On hand was Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock, Arturo Sandoval and others. A few days later the band left for Jakarta, Indonesia for several shows. My regular bass player was not available so I hired Larry Kimpel. Well, these dates started out as a nightmare because at the last minute Larry couldn’t make the gig and I had to find a replacement. Fortunately my good friend Christian McBride was playing the Festival with his band and agreed to play my two shows as well. However I still needed a bass player for the shows I was contracted to play in Japan the following week. Turns out my regular bass player Michael Manson was available for the Japan dates so I flew him in from Chicago and the dates in Tokyo and Yokohama went very well.

I returned from Japan and continued the final mixes for Déjà Vu, which had to be finished before I left for a European Tour. Then, another blow came when Ron Bruner told me he couldn’t do the tour at the last minute – something to do with some traffic tickets he had accrued. So, I began the search for a drummer and fortunately Gorden Campbell was available. Fortunately I’d done a lot of work with Gorden in the past and it made the transition seamless.

We left for Europe on April 5th and began our dates on the 7th starting in Copenhagen. We toured Europe for six weeks, the seventh week being cancelled due to problems with a date in the Ukraine. Besides Copenhagen we performed in Stockholm, Sweden; Bergen and Stavenger, Norway; Monaco, Bordeaux and Paris, France; Bern and Zurich, Switzerland; Brno and Prague, Czech Republic; Tallin, Estonia; Espoo, Finland; Munich, Dortmund, Leverkusen, Russelheim, Minden, Ingolstadt and Aalen, Germany; Vienna, Austria (where I had a GREAT lasagna); London, England and Zoetmeer, the Netherlands. Since we lost the seventh week we tried to fly home on May 17th but the volcano cloud from Iceland prevented us from leaving. A very tired band stayed in Amsterdam for an extra day and Robert Duffey (my tour manager) pulled off a miracle and got us all on flights back to the USA on the 18th. The Euro tour was a long but great experience, the longest I’d played since I was a kid with Frank Zappa. Most of the tour was on a bus so fortunately the band managed to clock good sleep time. We celebrated a birthday for Gorden, as usual I caught a cold (from the freezing bus) and managed somehow to leave my laptop at airport security in Finland. The computer followed me around Europe for more than a week, finally showing up somewhere in Germany thanks to the persistence of a very special lady who took it on herself to see that I got it back.

Back in LA I just chilled, did a few interviews before flying to San Francisco on May 21st to be inducted into the Alumi Hall of Fame at San Francisco State University where I received my Masters Degree many years before. The end of May 2009 also found me back in the studio finishing up mixes for Larisa Dolina. In June I did hours of radio and press interviews regarding my new Déjà Vu album, which still had not been released. I had a few make up dates to do in Martinique and Guadeloupe June 10th – 13th. Now this was really weird!! The World Cup was taking place in South Africa and I was told that over half the French team was from Martinique or Guadeloupe. The result - not many people came to the shows, everyone was watching TV. This was REALLY a drag!! I don’t know how the promoters could allow this to happen but it was what it was…

Back in the USA, Jarreau and my Trio had begun to play more live dates. We played Durham, NC and Philadelphia on June 19th & 20th. We also played dates in Richmond, Virginia and Saratoga Springs. You know I enjoy playing these shows with Al because they are so different from my regular band shows – scaled down, simpler.

For several months Native Instruments, my recording engineer Erik Zobler and I had been recording hours of my playing to release a George Duke sample library. I recorded for fours days over a three or four month period, pretty much whenever I had a spare day. I want to tell you I played till my mind and fingers gave out. I remember one session lasted 12 hours - I just played continuously for hours at a time! That DVD called George Duke Soul Treasures is now available and is perfect for musicians who mainly use sampling as a means to create tracks. It was designed to be a simple, user friendly application for those that want quick results. Pop and Rap producers I believe will find this package most useful as the samples are royalty free and the sound quality recorded in several different ways for flexibility and vibe.

July 2010 I continued to do interviews and found time to arrange a few songs for Korean singer Keiko Lee. Sony flew me to Tokyo on July 9th to record the songs with Keiko and I worked with her band of good musicians and returned to LA on the 13th.

The balance of July found me sweetening my 2009 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. On July 30th I did a gig with the band in Columbus, Ohio and Trenton, Michigan on the 31st. The first week of August I left for Budapest to perform as a quest with the Budapest Jazz Orchestra. These are really good musicians who are
a real pleasure to work with. While there my Déjà vu album was released on August 10th.

Back in the USA I flew to Chicago to take part in a fundraiser for my bass players school - Musical Arts Institute in Chicago. It was nice seeing these kids so interested in music. I was booked to play a date with the band just outside of Chicago on the 14th - so we did that and then proceeded to fly immediately back to LA to play a Trio date with Jarreau at the Long Beach Jazz Festival. We continued with dates at Wolf Trap and Saratoga, CA. which is near San Jose – a beautiful venue.

I played weekend dates August 27th & 28th at Anthology in San Diego. It was just the quartet so instrumentally we could stretch out – very cool. The interviews continued and I received a Heroes And Legends award on the 26th.

I took the rest of the month to organize the music for the Thelonius Monk Competition and left for DC on September 2nd and did the show on the 4th. Performing was Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Patti Austin, Ledisi, Jimmy Heath, Gladys Knight, Terence Blanchard and Kevin Eubanks among others. I returned to LA and put a show together for the Jesse Jackson Rainbow Push Birthday Celebration with special guest Lalah Hathaway. Another date followed with my band in one of my favorite places to play – Oakland, at Woodminster Ampitheatre. Another live date on Oct. 16th in Charleston, NC. Unfortunately a date in Charleston, SC had to be cancelled.

Erik began mixing the 2009 Montreux footage and I left on the 22nd for the Capital Jazz Cruise. I don’t think I’ve ever taken part in a Cruise with so many artists. This also marks the last time I saw Teena Marie, in fact we were in adjoining cabins. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her on “Sudan”from my Dukey Treats album, and several tracks from her last album including a special benefit song for the victims of Katrina. I was on the boat for a week and then came back to work with Erik on the DVD mixes.

On the 12th I flew to Memphis to do a show with the Stax Kids, which is part of the amazing Stax Museum. Kirk Whalum is the Artistic Director and what a great job he’s doing. These kids are really motivated and that’s so refreshing in today’s musical climate – yawl carry on!

To celebrate the 70th Anniversary and oddly enough the death of Frank Zappa on December 4th, I appeared as a quest with his son Dweezil and his group Zappa Plays Zappa. I actually had to practice!! Pulling off the cobwebs of this music that had been in the attic of my mind for so many years – all dusty – I HAD TO PRACTICE!! You know what, it was worth it - it was really fun! These guys (and gal) that play in Zappa Plays Zappa are great and play the music very well. The only thing missing is the zany, off the cuff stuff that always accompanied the rehearsed discipline of Frank’s music.

Just before Erik went on Holiday, we put the final touches on the Al Jarreau with the George Duke Trio recordings from 1965. The rest of last year I went Christmas shopping, wrote several songs for Ukrainian artist Kamaliya, bought a new Macbook Pro, went to movies, drank good wine, went to movies, drank good wine, drank good wine – you get the picture!

I believe 2011 is going to be a great year for me. In terms of live performances, I will be doing Trio dates with Al Jarreau and in June/August live dates with Marcus Miller and David Sanborn – one band. In July, I will tour in Europe with the original Billy Cobham/George Duke Band and still do various concerts with my regular band. On February 28th I’ll play in Osaka, Japan and March 2nd in Tokyo at Billboard Live with my regular guys. I’m just bringing the quartet and plan to do basically a fusion cake show with funk filling. We will be in Jakarta, Indonesia for dates on March 4/5/6. I will play my fusion show, take part in a Gospel According To Jazz Show, and do a George Duke & Friends Big Band Show with Kenny Loggins and others.

In terms of recorded music, there will be the enlarged Duke Band at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2009 featuring Rachelle Ferrell, Chaka Khan, the Cubanismo horn section and Lee Ritenhour. This will be available in Blu-ray and DVD discs. There will also be a DVD disc available that was shot in Prague with the smaller band. These videos were mixed in 5.1 surround sound.

Now, at the Al Jarreau w/the George Duke Trio shows, we will offer CD’s of our music recorded in 1965 before Al and I had cut our first albums. These tracks were cut at the Half Note Club in San Francisco when I was a sophomore in college and Al was a social worker – priceless stuff for a real fan. These recordings will only be available at out shows and our websites.

I also have a few surprises this year including some recording for Bootsy Collins new album. I’m also working on a track for Jil Scott.

I think that’s about it but there’s always more to come – WHEW!!!

George Duke