Entertainment & Arts

George Duke, jazz musician, dies aged 67

George Duke
Image caption Duke released his first album in 1966

American jazz musician George Duke, a pioneering keyboardist who collaborated with Frank Zappa during the 1970s, has died at the age of 67.

Former Supremes singer Scherrie Payne confirmed Duke died at St John's hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

His latest album, DreamWeaver, was released in July as a tribute to his wife Corine, who died from cancer in 2012.

Duke is survived by his sons, Rasheed and John.

"I just received the devastating and sad news that the great musician, George Duke, passed away this evening," said Payne.

"It was just one year earlier, 18 July, that his beloved wife and my friend, Corine, went to be with the Lord."

An accomplished musician across multiple genres, including jazz, funk and R&B, Duke released more than 30 solo albums.

He also produced and composed tracks for several musicians, including Miles Davis, Gladys Knight and Anita Baker.

His debut album, George Duke Quartet, was released in 1966 while he was studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

"They approached me at the break and asked me if I'd like to record an album," he would later recall. "Needless to say, I was in a state of shock."

Image caption Duke was musical director of the Nelson Mandela concert in London in 1989

Despite calling the album "the worst record" he ever made, Duke went on to work with several talented artists in the late 1960s.

They included the contemporary jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, with whom he recorded an album in 1969.

Duke met Zappa the same year and worked with him on a series of records, including Chunga's Revenge, 200 Motels and Apostrophe.

During a career spanning five decades, Duke composed and produced music for film and was an accomplished music director.

He was involved in several prestigious events, among them the Nelson Mandela tribute concert in London in 1989 and a tribute to French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Alyn Shipton, presenter of BBC Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests, said everyone with an interest in jazz music celebrated Duke as one of "the most wide-ranging" of musicians.

"On the one hand he made invaluable contributions to records by Cannonball Adderley, Gerald Wilson and Harry 'Sweets' Edison.

"On the other, he virtually invented how to use the synthesizer in a jazz-rock context.

"But he was also a major producer, working on albums with Miles Davis and the Brecker Brothers, as well as a host of funk and soul artists.

"He'll be equally fondly remembered by a new generation of hip hop musicians, who have made him one of the most sampled of all jazz artists."

Duke's work has been sampled by such acts as Kanye West, Daft Punk and Ice Cube. He also featured on the third album from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jill Scott.

Duke was devastated by Corine's death and released DreamWeaver less than a month ago as a tribute to her.

The musician had been due to perform with his band in Los Angeles in early September.

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