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George Duke: Déjà Vu

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George Duke at Freihofer Jazz Festival
George Duke at Freihofer Jazz Festival at Saratoga Springs (photo: Ben Johnson)

Keyboardist-composer-producer George Duke has tuned his funky-dukey-stick shtick down a notch with Déjà Vu, which follows the intense energy of 2008’s Dukey Treats. This one’s for Duke’s R&B fans and those who like their contemporary jazz served with heft and verve.

Duke’s always been enamored with a certain silky, Brazilian lushness. “A Melody” plays into this, as his breathless vocalese and an all-female quartet share the spotlight with piano runs and pleasant synth interludes. “Bring Me Joy” is just as compelling, a Stevie Wonder-like ballad where Duke’s low-key vocal range fits in perfectly with the song’s direction. By the time the vibes are introduced you’ll be ready to book a flight to Barbados. Two other highlights: Duke’s son, vocalist Rashid Duke, on the infectious pop stylings of “Six O’Clock Revisited”; and “Oh Really?” featuring bassist Larry Kimpel, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, with a sound so thick and rich with R&B and slow funk you can taste it.

There are more challenging tunes, if that’s your bag: “Ripple in Time” is a tribute to Miles Davis with trumpeter Oscar Brashear; “Stupid Is as Stupid Does” returns to the freewheeling fusion era, with saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and flutist Hubert Laws trading solos; and the title track is a tour de force boasting Duke’s wailing synth-guitar solos and Sarah Thornblade’s dexterous violin voicings.

Originally Published