George Duke, Jazz Keyboardist Who Played With Greats, Dies at 67

Image: George Duke, Jazz Keyboardist Who Played With Greats, Dies at 67

Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 04:31 PM

By David Ogul

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Jazz icon George Duke, who performed with musicians ranging from Miles Davis to Frank Zappa and Michael Jackson, died Monday of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in Los Angeles. He was 67.

Born in San Rafael in the San Francisco Bay Area, Duke began taking piano lessons when he was only 4 years old after seeing Duke Ellington perform.

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Duke studied trombone and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory, notes the New York Daily News, but he became famous for his work on a variety of keyboards.

NPR’s Felix Contreras wrote that Duke not only was the quintessential jazz musician, but also “a very successful record producer who worked with folks like Gladys Knight, The Pointer Sisters, Anita Baker, Rachelle Ferrell. As an instrumentalist, he started working with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. But he made is mark in the jazz fusion vein, mostly with fellow musicians Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham. He had a series of respected fusion albums going back to the late 1970s.”

Fans and fellow musicians were taking to social networking sites to grieve their loss.

“R.I.P. George Duke. Thanks for your light, your brilliance and all the jams,” tweeted @LashondaKatrice.

“Watching these greats die is like watching the sun giving off solar flares. Or even watching a titans fall,” tweeted @Thundercat.

“George Duke was a giant!! He was one of the great ones. Every time I played with him I learned so much. It’s hard…” tweeted jazz saxophonist David Sanborn.

“Rest in Peace George Duke. Truly an inspiration to so many musicians. You will be missed,” tweeted @GrvSession.

USA Today noted that Duke’s final album, "DreamWeaver," made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart following its release July 16. It was his first release since his wife, Connie, died last year.

Duke is survived by two sons, Rashid and John.

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