## 101-110 "I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry" (Polydor, 1975) 3*
The list of heavyweights who join George Duke on 1975's I Love the Blues: She Heard My Cry is impressive - some of the participants include Johnny "Guitar" Watson, singer Flora Purim, percussionist Airto Moreira, guitarist Lee Ritenour, drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, and guitarist George Johnson (of Brothers Johnson fame). With such a cast, one would expect this 1975 LP to be outstanding, which it isn't. But it's a respectable effort that thrives on diversity. The highlights of this album range from decent fusion instrumentals, like "That's What She Said," "Giant Child Within Us-Ego," and "Sister Serene," to the mellow soul ballad "Someday" and the Jimi Hendrix-like heavy metal/hard rock offering "Rokkinrowl," which finds Duke singing lead and contains some of Ritenour's more forceful playing. Meanwhile, Duke and Watson perform a vocal duet on the title song, which is the only 12-bar blues number on the album. In 1975, some jazz fans wished that the artist would stick to instrumental fusion and stay away from R&B and rock singing, but, in fact, it was jazz that Duke would eventually move away from. I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry isn't recommended to those who only want to hear Duke as an instrumentalist, although it's enjoyable if you like hearing some rock, soul, and blues singing along with your fusion.
All Music Guide
## 111-205 "The Aura Will Prevail" (BASF, 1976) 4,5*
In 1975, George Duke was dabbling in R&B vocals. But instrumental jazz-fusion was still his primary focus, and he had yet to be played extensively on any of the genres' stations. When The Aura Will Prevail came out that year, no one bought the LP for its occasional R&B vocal - the main attraction was Duke's keyboard playing. "Fools" is a melancholy soul ballad that finds him singing lead and predicts what was to come on R&B-oriented releases like Don't Let Go (1978) and Master of the Game (1979), but it isn't typical of the album on the whole. This is a fusion effort first and foremost, and Duke has plenty of room to stretch out and improvise on instrumentals that range from the insistent "Floop de Loop" to the Brazilian-influenced "Malibu" (which shouldn't be confused with the Hole/Courtney Love gem). Two of the songs were written or co-written by Frank Zappa: the fusion instrumental "Echidna's Arf" and the gospel-minded soul item "Uncle Remus" (another tune that gives Duke a chance to sing lead). Without question, The Aura Will Prevail is among this artist's finest fusion-oriented albums.
All Music Guide
## 206-214 "Liberated Fantasies" (BASF, 1976) 3*
When George Duke recorded Liberated Fantasies in 1976, he had yet to make R&B his primary focus, but he was gradually moving in that direction. Liberated Fantasies is primarily an album of instrumental jazz fusion, although three of the tunes offer R&B or rock vocals. Singer Napoleon Brock provides an enjoyable rock vocal on "Tryin' and Cryin'," and Duke's lead singing on the funky "Don't Be Shy" and the mellow soul number "Seeing You" give listeners a taste of what was to come on albums like 1977's Reach for It, 1978's Don't Let Go and 1979's Follow the Rainbow. Meanwhile, his skills as a fusion keyboardist are illustrated by instrumentals that include the playful "I C'n Hear That," the groovin' "Back to Where We Never Left" and the Brazilian-minded title song. Generally decent and occasionally excellent, Liberated Fantasies falls short of essential but is worth hearing if enjoy hearing Duke tackle a variety of material.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The Aura Has Prevailed
"I think that one should be constantly renewing their goals, otherwise it's easy to get stagnant. I always want to find something else to do. Once you're successful at one thing, then it's good to move on to another challenge", George Duke explained in a 1984 Down Beat interview.
A glance at his resume up to now suggests that George Duke has succeeded in whatever musical context he searched for new challenges: as a session player in demand he played straightahead jazz with Cannonball Adderley, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, and Sonny Rollins; he explored the realms of fusion and funk side by side with Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham, and Stanley Clarke; and - to make it brief - worked as a musician and / or producer with almost everyone from A to Z in any possible (and impossible) style - from Joan Armatrading to Frank Zappa, playing avantgarde jazz as well as zany rock; one of the pinnacles of Duke's astounding career being probably the cooperation with the late Miles Davis on his albums "Tutu" and "Amandla".
George Duke started his professional career as leader of a house band (also featuring the at that time unknown singer Al Jarreau) which accompanied giants such as Dizzy Gillespie or Dexter Gordon at San Francisco's Half Note jazz club. In 1966, while still studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Duke was discovered at the Jazz Workshop, another San Francisco jazz club, by the German producer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, who actually wanted to attend a concert of the Les McCann Trio. As a matter of luck the producer caught a gig by the George Duke Quartet instead, and so the then 20-year-old pianist got the chance to debut with his jazz group on Brunner-Schwer's MPS label.
Although in retrospect neither George Duke himself nor Brunner- Schwer consider this debut album an artistic revelation, it paved the way for years of cooperation which yielded a whole string of more interesting records. Duke, however, took the chance of exposing his talents and pushed his career on higher levels. Following a prestigious engagement with trumpeter Don Ellis' progressive big band, George Duke teamed up with French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, through whom he met Frank Zappa, who should have a major influence on his further musical development.
From 1970 to 1975, interrupted only by a two-year interlude with Cannonball Adderley, by George Duke performed and recorded with various Frank Zappa ensembles. During his time with what was probably the Mothers Of Invention's most popular line-up, Duke became acquainted with rock & roll (check out his ironic reflection in "Rokkinrowl") and electric keyboards. As a pioneer of the rather new technology of synthesizers, George Duke has to be mentioned in the same breath as Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Don Preston, Jan Hammer, and Sun Ra.
From being a "too serious" and "straitlaced black-tie jazz player", as he considered himself retrospectively in 1984, he developed into a humorous and open-minded musical frontier crosser. During these years George Duke formed his own voice in music: a unique melange of profound instrumental skills and soulful vocals with a fine sense for ear-catching melodies and a refreshing touch of ironic wit.
The three albums presented in this two-cd edition had been recorded towards the end of Duke's second period with Frank Zappa, which produced classics such as "Overnite Sensation", "Apostrophe(')", "Roxy And Elsewhere", and "One Size Fits All", and feature the Zappa alumni Ruth Underwood, Tom and Bruce Fowler, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Emil Richards, and Janet Ferguson Hoff, who were joined by some of the finest fusion musicians of that time: Brazilian expatriates Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, West Coast cat Lee Ritenour, Santana's drummer Leon 'Ndugu' Chancier, session cracks Alphonso Johnson and Daryl Stuermer, as well as Johnny 'Guitar' Watson.
The music of "I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry", "The Aura Will Prevail", and "Liberated Fantasies" is both reflecting the influence Frank Zappa's freaked-out stuff had on George Duke and indicating the keyboardists later dedication to fusion, funk, and soul music.
"Uncle Remus" and "Echidna's Arf", songs which had been released previously by Zappa on "Apostrophe(')" and "Roxy And Elsewhere" respectively, display most obviously George Duke's Mothers (Of Invention) fixation. But you can also detect the distinct influence of Zappa's compositional signature in Duke's own "That's What She Said", a complex, polyrhythmic tune featuring Emil Richards' wizardry on marimba and the violin of John Wittenberg, standing in for the Mothers' protagonists Ruth Underwood and Jean-Luc Ponty.
"The funkiness of my music is the blackness of my music", said George Duke. What he meant that becomes apparent in funky tunes like "Prepare Yourself", "Don't Be Shy", or the gospel -inspired "Chariot", which also recalls James 'Blood' Ulmer's saying that "jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher".
But the name of George Duke stands for stylistic versatility. "Rokkinrowl" offers a rare opportunity to catch Lee Ritenour playing on his rocking edge. The airy fusion of "Look Into Her Eyes" or "I C'n HearThat" is reminiscent of early Return To Forever recordings. Then there are dreamy ballads like "Sister Serene", "Fools", and "Seeing You", or a soulful blues duet by George Duke and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson on "I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry". The smooth "After The Love" and sparkling sambas like "Malibu" or "Liberated Fantasies" add some Brazilian flavor to these recordings. Little drolleries such as Emil Richards' solo percussion performance "Mashavu" or "What The ..." seem to be nonsense for nonsense's sake.
If you listen to these recordings you can get more than just an idea of the various talents of George Duke. But talking about him and his music means talking about fun, too. Because George Duke always enjoyed taking his chance to smuggle in some surprising absurdity into a love song, a ballad, a whatever. And ... ain't this what living (and making music) is really all about?
- Jorg Eipasch (freelance journalist)