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George Duke: Face the Music

Keyboardist/producer George Duke inaugurates his new label, Big Piano Music, with Face the Music, an album filled with zesty, free-spirited, funk-fusion jams.

The album was recorded shortly after 9/11. Duke writes in the album notes that he had planned to have the band play a week at the Los Angeles club Catalina’s in order to learn the material, but in the aftermath of Sept. 11, bassist Christian McBride, who was playing with Sting at the time, was stranded in Spain and unable to make rehearsals. When they finally did perform together, the musicians were heavy-hearted, but the mood had lifted by the end of the week and spirited hope runs through the CD.

Duke opens Face the Music with “The Black Messiah (Part 2),” a soul-jazz romp paying tribute to his former bandleader, Cannonball Adderley, which features a rap by Cannonball himself. “My Piano” is an exuberant multicultural excursion blending jazz, African, calypso and gospel elements, while the intimate ballad “Close to You” features lead vocals by Duke and some very expressive soloing by saxophonist Kirk Whalum. “Creepin'” is a good-humored track about cheating on one’s significant other, complete with otherworldly, ghostly vocalizing and “prowling” bass from McBride. “Let’s Roll”-which was composed in 1971 and doesn’t refer to the Sept. 11 rallying phrase-is a lively jam featuring a fleet-fingered solo by McBride. Duke ends the album with the high-octane “10 Mile Jog,” a horn-spiced, infectiously grooving funk workout highlighted by a flame-throwing solo by guitarist Jef Lee Johnson.

Originally Published