A Conversation With Composer, Arranger, Musician, Singer,
Producer GEORGE DUKE About "Dukey Treats"
Worldwide Release Aug 26th for BPM/Heads-Up International
By: Dr. Gatsby Melodi', PhD
Kansas City August 19, 2008 - George Duke was
born January 12, 1946, in San Rafael, CA, and
began playing piano in his local Baptist
church at 7. By his teen years he was
influenced by Miles Davis, Les McCann and
Cal Tjader, all who inspired him to play in high
school jazz groups.
For five decades George Duke has been
hailed as one of the most extraordinary
musical genius of all time, and he has
consistently made a name for himself
because of his solo work and collaborations.
Today, one quick look at this 62 year-old
courages musical-trailblazing-pioneer genius
and you'll be amazed that you won't see much
salt in the hair on his head.
'Wow you look great', I emphasized to George
Duke in my opening statement as I began my
phone interview with him last Wednesday
about DUKEY TREATS (HUCD 3143), his
debut album on BPM/Heads Up International
set for worldwide release on August 26, 2008.
I told Mr. Duke, "I'm your age and dye my hair
to prevent visible grey", and then I asked him,
"Do you dye yours?"
I hollered when he hilariously responded to
my query in a playful boyish voice saying "No, I
don't dye my hair but I do put a little something
in my beard",
Instantly George Duke and I both cracked-up
laughing out loud at the same time and
continued laughing uncontrollably for at least
another 15 seconds. As a matter of fact he
kept me in stitches during the interview. The
man is a hoot and after our interview
concluded my face and stomach was hurting
from laughing. Now, ain't that good news!!!
DUKEY TREATS is George Duke's 38th solo
album, and it is also the one destined to
become his best seller to date. The musical
landscaping he's structured in each of the 13
fetching tracks included on the album will no
doubt please fans and garner news ones.
Duke serves-up healthy portions of Funk, Jazz,
R&B and Comedy on DUKEY TREATS. This is
one of those albums that'll remind you of back
in the day when you'd put it on the box with the
arm UP so it would play over and over again
because it was just that cool.
The comedy in the songs offer moments with
side-splitting humor and are perfect for a
setting to sing-along to. The ballads are
melodically and classy, with slow mellow
groovy beats. The funk in DUKEY TREATS is
get-down, get-funky, get-loose, funky. The
Jazz, the Soul and the R&B is without riff raff or
too many notes played in a bar to please.
DUKEY TREATS is easy but powerful and the
listener can visualize themselves in to each
song's scenario right from the beginning. The
album's energy is reminiscent of LIVE
performances, and because of its delivery with
authentic passion the listener will recognize
that and will be drawn-in to its emotions.
Among the numerous treats on this album are
not just the songs themselves but the roster of
high-profile personnel helping to bring them to
life. Creatively speaking, George Duke
enlisted the help of some wonderful singers
and musicians like Wah Wah Watson, Jim
Gilstrap, Jonathan Butler, Lori Perry, Shelia E,
Howard Hewett, Teena Marie, Rachelle
Ferrell, Christian McBride, Josie James,
Lenny Castro, Leon Chancler, Lynn Davis,
Byron Miller, Wayman Tisdale and Larry
Kimpel (just to name a few).
Jim Gilstrap was one of the backing vocalists
for Stevie Wonder's group Wonderlove, and he
sang the opening lines of the song 'You Are
the Sunshine of My Life'. Gilstrap also
provided the male lead vocals for the 1970s
hit TV show "Good Times" theme song.
Wah Wah Watson is the legendary Motown
session guitarist heard on songs like 'Papa
Was A Rolling Stone' made famous by The
Temptations, Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On',
and his signature riffs, licks and grooves are
also heard on countless other Motown hey day
hits made famous by other legends like
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The
Supremes, The Jackson 5, Jr. Walker & The
All Stars, The Four Tops and Gladys Knight &
About DUKEY TREATS, Duke said, “I wanted
to do some real funk on this album and so I
incorporated old school music from the 60's
and 70's. There’s a huge audience that’s
interested in the music of more mature artists
and music that has a little more depth than
what you might find elsewhere. I've included
vibes of Sly & the Family Stone, Earth Wind &
Fire, Marvin Gaye and Parliament & the
Funkadelic all seen through my vision and
what I've learned over the years."
Duke explains the high-energy opening track
'Everyday Hero' saying - “This is the first tune I
wrote for the album. I wanted something funky
that had something relevant to say. This is a
song of praise for the various unsung and
under-recognized figures who move in and out
of our lives every day like police officers,
firefighters, doctors, teachers and countless
others who make contributions that often go
unnoticed. It’s sort of a Sly Stone vibe
(laughs) ---only on steroids.”
The second cut (one of my fav's) 'I Tried to Tell
You' is a mellow feelgood ballad with Duke
doing some sweet ivory tickling. Background
vocal hook singing "I tried to tell you but you
won't listen, that's why I wrote this song"
becomes key for what will follow. Duke's piano
performance here is to-die-for, and I told him
so. I said, "Mr Duke, that piano playing is so
good it makes the listener wanna slap you for
tickling the ivory's that fabulously."
He laughed and told me I'd understood his
intent with the song in terms of tickling the
keys. He responded saying, "I originally wrote
that song with lyrics but I took out all the lyrics
and let the piano become the words. It is
written in old school way with melody chords.
I decided it is not about playing low or soft so
yes, I just decided to tickle the ivory."
Veteran keyboardist and producer George Duke
debuts "Dukey Treats" August 26, 2008 on
BPM/Heads Up International.
There was one thing about 'I Tried to Tell You'
that drove me crazy, and it can be a trivia hit at
a party. In the closing 30 seconds to this track,
the background vocalists sound like another
song in the hook, but I couldn't figure it out. I
kept wanting to hear 'Love - will - make -u oh
so happy', but that isn't what they sing, those
are the lyrics in the unknown song, and not
knowing the other song title was driving me
crazy. I called about ten other music journalist
in the country and everybody told me the same
thing. "it was a female who sang it", but no-
body could name that tune, or say who sang it.
"The singer was Joyce Kennedy, the name of
the group was Mother's Finest, the name of
the song is 'Love Changes', and the reason
the lyrics are not the same is because that
would be copyright infringement", Mr. Duke
apprised. The vocals on 'I Tried to Tell You'
are performed by George Duke, Josie James,
Dee Dee Foster and Jim Gilstrap.
Gatsby: How did it happen that you hired Jim
Gilstrap to work on this album?
GeorgeDuke: "Jim Gilstrap has been a friend
for many years. He is like an unsung hero.
He is like a work horse in the business.
Whenever I want a warm deep voice and
somebody I can count on to take care of
business right away based on ability, I call on
Cut #3 'A Funk Tail' (a history of the
inter-galactic fonk expeditions)- this track is
Duke's nod to Parliament Funkadelic
caricature of cosmic funk and one of those
comedy tracks with Duke storytelling of man
bed woman and birthing a child named
"OOOO", and the child wielded a magic wand
they called THE DUCKEY STICK.
Whoever thought George Duke wasn't a
GREAT singer will have a change of heart after
listening to Cut #5 'Listen Baby'. This is one
of those close your eyes and get in the groove
songs with imagination and anticipation of a
great romance. On vocals Duke delivers the
soulful pulse of a Jeffrey Osborne and the sexy
crooning sounds like Marvin Gaye. 'Listen
Baby' is a strong R&B crossover track, so
keep an ear out for it as a single release in the
future. (if the label is smart)
I told Mr. Duke I love 'Listen Baby' and it is one
of my favorites on the album.
"Thank you. Yes, I'm doing a Marvin Gaye
thing. Maybe more than I should have. Soft
and jazzy though with a Miles trumpet. The
song is a personal statement from a man to
his girl", George Duke added.
Cut #6 'Mercy' has got a wonderful catchy
hook line that goes -- "mun-mercy". The beat
says snap ya fingers, arch ya back, whip ya
head to the music. It has that electric slide
and bus stop enthusiasm to get up on your
feet and boogie to the funky sounds. I say it is
reminiscent of the song 'Tramp' from 1966
recorded on the old STAX label made famous
by Carla Thomas and Otis Redding. It's got
the comical dialogue between the man and
the woman and is driven by a funky bassline
with horns. As a matter of fact, Josie James
who supplies the lead vocals on 'Mercy'
sounds like Carla Thomas. The supporting
casts is huge on this jam: Byron Miller, bass,
rap; Leon Chancelor, drums, rap; Jef Lee
Johnson, guitar; Wah Wah Watson, guitar;
Shelia E, percussion, rap; Josie James,
vocals, rap; Lynn Davis, vocals rap; Everette
Harp, alto sax; Larry Williams tenor sax;
Michael Stewart, trumpet; Isley Remington,
trombone; Kamasi Washington, tenor sax solo.
Gatsby: How did it happen that you hired Wah
Wah Watson to work on this album?"
GeorgeDuke: "I see him once a year at Leon
"Ndugu" Chancelor's New Years party. When I
see Wah Wah we always said we'd get
together. I found the perfect vehicle with
'Mercy'. I told Wah Wah I've got this funky thing
and I want you to sprinkle all over it. He set it
up, man. ---- Fats Waller used to say
MERCAAAA. Like when a pretty sexy girl
walks by and the man says "mercaaaaa" or
when you stub your toe and you shout
"mercaaaa". You gotta put some Atlanta,
some Birmingham in it and accentuate that A
though (laughs). Man, I have 8 hours of
footage we shot recording this album and
you'd love it. It is just incredible to see these
cats working together."
Gatsby: Will you be incorporating some of that
footage into a music video?
GeorgeDuke: "Maybe, I'll probably put an hour
up on my website or on YouTube for the
people to enjoy. I won't be selling it though."
Rachelle Ferrell is one of those immediate
recognizable singers because of her startling
six-and-change octave vocal range. While she
does supply backup vocals on other tracks
throughout DUKEY TREATS, it is on the slow
stirring ballad cut #9 'Right On Time' that
brings her Minnie Ripperton-like wailing out
front in a song about a man crossing the
friendship line and taking it to the romantic
level. "I produced Rachelle's first three
albums so I knew she was the perfect voice
for this song", Duke told me.
Gatsby: I see you added Jonathan Butler to
GeorgeDuke: "We call him J.B. I love J.B.
He's an incredible singer from South Africa.
He's got the perfect energy for (cut #10)
'Sudan'. He truly understands the situations."
Gatsby: Overall, how would you describe
GeorgeDuke: "This album is like a candy box
with different kinds of chocolate. There is dark
chocolate, light chocolate with nuts, chocolate
with creams. Choose the one you like. They
all have quality and tasting goodness."
George Duke is a warm and gracious man. A
special thanks to Mike Wilpizeski, Vice
President of Jazz Publicity, Heads Up
International, for granting and arranging this
A F R O A M E R I C A N S Y N D I C A T E