Face The Music – George Duke
While I will delete some of my enthusiastic response to Face the
the first release by George Duke on his Big Piano record label, for several
of its smooth jazz mannerisms, the veteran keyboardist/writer/producer and
the good company he keeps, generally, find ways to keep the groove funky
while maintaining an adventurous spirit.
With a career spanning more than three decades, which included work
alongside one legendary performer after another – Miles Davis, Cannonball
Adderly, Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole, Dianne Reeves and Frank Zappa – Duke's background takes in a mix of styles from the worlds of jazz, rock and
r&b. So, it makes sense that there are vocals reminiscent of one-time
collaborator Jarreau popping up on "Chillin'" as well as the notion of
allowing the bass to be front-and-center, like his days with Stanley Clarke.
It's who Duke is.
But, minus two or three tracks that exhibit an undesirable adult
contemporary feel, "Face the Music" displays an ambitious streak that's
"The Black Messiah (Part 2)", a mock live number, opens the album. An old
recording of Cannonball Adderly, rapping and introducing Duke to an audience
at a show in 1971 enhances what is actually a studio track.
"My Piano" celebrates Duke's instrument of choice. But, as the tune
progresses it goes on to bring that exuberant feeling to reflect the music
the world. To accomplish this, the number varies between a Latin and funk
rhythm while blending r&b and gospel sources. It reminded me of a concert
video I watched on VH1 earlier this morning of Peter Gabriel and Youssou
N'Dour performing "In Your Eyes".
After a slight sag in the middle, the album really takes off during its
second half. Following Duke's sole vocal contribution on the tender ballad,
"Close to You", the next three numbers find Duke and his nine-piece band
getting stronger and stronger, even incorporating a little something good,
strange and Fishbone-like on "Creepin'." It's enough to make one wish that
the final fade out after more than 11 minutes of "10 Mile Jog" would hold
off and allow another 11 minutes.