Monday, April 24, 2017

George Duke – No Rhyme No Reason

Classics: George Duke – No Rhyme No Reason (Warner Bros.)

‘No Rhyme No Reason’ stands among those ultra rare moments in the history of Soul/Jazz. In the caliber of gems such as Freddie Hubbard‘s ‘Little Sunflower’. But also George Benson‘s ‘Nature Boy’. Not to mention Will Downing and Rachelle Ferrell‘s ‘Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This’.

As a matter of fact, the latter is on this adventure as well, sharing the backing vocal duties with Jim Gilstrap. And therefore adding a lot to the emotional content of this lascivious joint. This in addition to the instantly identifiable performance by the likes of Duke himself and his stellar keys.

From his 1992 released ‘Snasphot’ album, ‘No Rhyme No Reason’ would resurface 15 years later. Although in some uptempo vein with an outstanding remix courtesy of David Lalla on Fall Out Records. And titled ‘Rhyme Or Reason’ for the occasion.

Overview
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 ‘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…

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