The Essential George Duke
George Duke's prolific career spans five decades and several genres. While classically trained jazz musicians often struggle to appeal to broader audiences and industry veterans often struggle to adapt to new trends, Duke avoided such problems. He was always willing to try something new and therefore remained relevant to several successive generations. The Essential George Duke focuses on the peak of his crossover success, between 1977 and 1984 (with one song, “Mothership Connection,” from 1990). In a whirlwind of productivity, Duke produced a string of hits that included outrageous funk jams (“Dukey Stick,” “Reach for It”), tightly woven disco pop (“Party Down,” “I Want You for Myself,” “Shine On”), smooth soul (“Say That You Will,” “I Just Want to Love You”), and even Brazilian music (“Cravo e Canela,” “Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite”). The consistency of this collection might suggest that Duke aspired to pop perfection, but these songs represent only one segment of a much larger career. Though he never gave up his ambitions as a jazz artist, he deserves equal credit as a master of the dance-pop idiom.