Jazz legend George Duke dead at 67

George Duke, who began his career as a jazz pianist in the 1960′s but made his name by crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 67.
He had suffered heart complications after being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia – said his manager, Darryl Porter, who confirmed the death.
The name of the instrument with which Mr. Duke is perhaps most closely associated also describes his approach to music – synthesizer. While he remained a respected figure in the jazz world, over the years he also played keyboards with Frank Zappa and Michael Jackson, sang lead on a Top 20 single and produced pop and rhythm-and-blues hits for others. His work has been sampled by hip-hop and electronic artists, including Daft Punk.

Jazz legend George Duke dead at 67
George Duke.

George Duke, the legendary jazz, R&B and funk keyboardist, died on Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. He was 67.
According to his record label, which announced his passing, he was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father’s friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming” – Duke’s son, Rashid Duke, said in a statement. “Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support.”
Throughout his five-decade career, Duke released more than 40 albums and worked with a wide range of artists including Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Manilow, George Clinton, Al Jarreau and Michael Jackson.

As a musician – Mr. Duke made forays into the avant-garde rock of Zappa, Brazilian jazz and urban funk. His long string of recording credits included keyboard work on Jackson’s 1979 “Off the Wall” album and records by jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Davis.
In the 1960′s, Mr. Duke studied trombone and string bass at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while playing piano in his own jazz trio in clubs at night. The group’s engagements included a stint as the house band with singer Al Jarreau at San Francisco’s Half Note club.
Mr. Duke also struck up a partnership with French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and the two recorded an album in 1969 and gave a series of performances in the San Francisco area that drew the attention of Zappa and the jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.
In the next decade – Mr. Duke divided his time between playing organ and synthesizer on tours with Zappa’s rock band, the Mothers of Invention, and playing electric piano in Adderley’s jazz group. Starting in 1976, he co-led a jazz fusion group with drummer Billy Cobham, a noted Davis collaborator.
In the studio, Zappa pushed Mr. Duke to use the keyboard synthesizer in new ways, even to imitate the string bends of a guitarist.
“Bend notes! I’m a piano player” – he once said. “Now I can be like (blues guitarist) Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. I could play the blues on a synthesizer. I said, that’s it!”

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