George Duke makes joy out of sadness on DreamWeaver, the veteran keyboardist’s first album following the death of his wife, Corine, last year. Initially, the grief-stricken Duke found it difficult to create music, but inspiration eventually returned, and when it did, it clearly was flowing. Clocking in at nearly 75 minutes, DreamWeaver is an expansive, mostly high-spirited outing with something for just about everyone.
Duke swings through the jazzy “Stones of Orion,” which features his old friend and longtime collaborator Stanley Clarke on upright bass. He recalls his formative years and jazz awakening on “Trippin’,” and leads an all-star lineup of singers—including Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Freddie Jackson, BeBe Winans and Lori Perry—on “Change the World,” a “We Are the World”-style call for unity.
The dramatic, slow-building “Ball & Chain” spotlights a powerful bluesy vocal performance by R&B singer Teena Marie, who passed away in 2010. Duke worked with Marie on her 2009 album Congo Square, and recorded “Ball & Chain” for a jazz album Marie wanted Duke to produce. “Ball & Chain” wasn’t included on Marie’s posthumous album Beautiful, released earlier this year, and her daughter gave Duke her blessing to use the song on DreamWeaver. Of course, there’s plenty on this album for those who like their jams with a hefty helping of funk, notably the rollicking, horn section-punctuated “Ashtray” and the extended workout “Burnt Sausage Jam.”
Duke dedicated DreamWeaver to his late wife and pays tribute to her on two tracks: the ballad “Missing You” and the album closer, “Happy Trails.” The song is most closely associated with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but Duke makes it his own, and his loving farewell to Corine might just leave you misty-eyed.