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ARTICLE UPDATE: George Duke dies at age 67

George Duke was a dream weaver and a music maker

8/6/2013, 12:34 p.m. | Updated on 8/6/2013, 12:28 p.m.

With almost a half a century career, Duke is one today's most prolific living jazz legends. From leading a jazz trio with a young Al Jarreau during his formative years to working with Jean-Luc Ponty, which afforded Duke's first recording contract with MPS Records and his first exposure to Europe, to his incredible work with Adderley, drummer Billy Cobham, and Frank Zappa, to his cherished stream of jazz-funk records in the '70s, Duke found his mark not only in his eclecticism, but also his signature approach to the synthesizer, which often prized less pyrotechnics in favor of blues elements.

"I didn't hear anybody playing the blues on the synthesizer," Duke recalls, "When I was with Billy Cobham, I said, ‘We need to bring some R&B into fusion,' because at that time, it just seemed like people were just playing a lot of notes really fast, especially on the synthesizer. I thought it would work if we put an R&B vibe into the fusion element to reach the people."

He keeps that quality intact as evidenced on DreamWeaver. "For me, I need the blues in there; that Ancient Source that really emanated from Africa," he says when asked about his approach to jazz, "Jazz formed from the merging of European and African elements in a spontaneous context, so if you take away either element from the music, it ceases to be living, growing and ever changing real jazz, for me."