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Interview:
George Duke Has "Deja Vu" On New Album
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

The title of George Duke’s new album, “Deja Vu,” is no accident.

The veteran keyboardist and producer’s latest release sports the kind of vintage synthesizer sounds he and other pioneers — including Jan Hammer and the late Joe Zawinul of Weather Report — explored and made famous during the ’70s.

He had fun making this blast from the past, but the conservatory trained artist recalls that he did not readily embrace the instrument at first.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Duke, 64, says with a laugh. “I was in (Frank) Zappa’s band at the time, and Frank told me, ‘You should play synthesizer.’ I looked at it and said, ‘No way! I ain’t playing this thing!’ All I could see was patch chords and knobs — I felt like a mad scientist, not a musician.

“But Frank said, ‘Maybe you’ll bump it and sound will come out. And I found a knob on there where I could bend the pitch, and that’s what did it for me. I found a way to make it work for me, a blues side of that hadn’t been developed yet. So that was my voice.”

“Deja Vu,” which comes out Aug. 10, features guest appearances by trumpeter Nicholas Payton, flutist Hubert Laws and saxophonist Bob Sheppard. Duke is also working on a number of other projects as producer, but he says that he’s not as involved with Detroit singer Anita Baker’s next album as has been reported.

“I was in Europe on a tour when I started hearing about this, and people were calling me, sending me songs for Anita,” Duke explains. “I haven’t even spoken with Anita. She did call and send me songs, but we have not been in the studio yet. I can tell you they’re really good songs and she’s in really good voice; if it stays true to what I heard, it sounds like the old Anita’s back.

“But she hasn’t called yet, so I’m just waiting.”



George Duke performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 31, as part of the 15th annual Jazz on the River festival at Elizabeth Park in Trenton. The festival runs Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1, and also features performances by Rick Braun, Richard Elliott, Euge Groove, Alexander Zonjic and others. Admission is free. Call 734-261-1990 or visit www.zonjic.com.

Web Site: www.zonjic.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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