You know how sometimes you’re a huge fan of an artist but their style changes over time? You keep buying their new music because you’re holding on/hoping for what you enjoyed in the past. Fortunately, that is not the case for every artist. George Duke is a constant in the contemporary jazz universe. He’s done other styles but he always comes back to the funk/soul style he loves best. His new Dukey Treats, available tomorrow, is full of soulful vocals provided by some familiar names: Jonathan Butler, Howard Hewett, Teena Marie, Rachelle Ferrell, and more. “I didn’t want to drift too far away from the old school sensibility,” Duke explains. As usual, you’ll find an irresistible track or two – it was the peppy “Are You Ready” for me.
Fans will not be disappointed in Dukey Treats. It’s like a visit from an old friend who hasn’t lost the things you love about him or her.
Tuesday, August 12, is a big day for contemporary jazz fans. It’s the day that several legends will drop new music – and all of them on two recordings. In fact, four of the five artists who were on the Legends tour about a decade ago are on them.
David Sanborn is back with an album that likely will serve as a highlight in his career. What upfront was to funk, Here and Gone might be to soul and blues. Sanborn pays homage to the music that inspired him, especially the music of Hank Crawford. “Hank was the great saxophonist and arranger for Ray Charles in the 1950s and early ’60s, and his arrangements and playing were central to me in forming my ideas about what music was and should be,” states Sanborn. “He had such a wonderful economy in what he did: He didn’t waste any notes, and there was nothing superfluous about his playing.” To help realize the vision he had for this recording, the saxman brought in some names: Christian McBride and Steve Gadd are the rhythm section and Eric Clapton sings and plays “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.” Also contributing are Joss Stone, Sam Moore, Gil Goldstein, Russell Malone, and Wallace Roney. I didn’t receive an advance on Here and Gone but I did hear three cuts. I don’t know if it’s a word but I’m describing it as “rootsy.” I mean, it’s Sanborn playing the style that influenced him, and it doesn’t sound like it’s a slick, overly polished record. Rootsy.
Down to the Bone has the perfect summer soundtrack with their fun and funky new release Supercharged. True to the title, this release is a pumped-up, constant jam that won’t let your body remain idle. It needs a warning label – “Product contains powerful horns (props to Shilts and the D.C. Horns), percolating bass, mean guitar by Tony Remy, and relentless energy – may leave you exhausted after play!”
Supercharged sounds like it should be listened to in the sunshine, preferably driving down the highway with the top down. It conjures up summer imagery, especially on two of my favorite tracks. “Parkside Shuffle” is a nice, sweet tune, reminiscent of a walk in the park, that builds into an unbelievably infectious melody around the two-minute mark. Hil St. Soul adds a strong vocal effort to the uplifting “Smile to Shine.” A flavorful bass line and welcome trumpet and trombone solos at the end only make a great song better.
Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but it’s rare to hear this kind of music released and receiving mass distribution in the States. Buy this release when it comes out on June 18. Not only will you get music you’ll enjoy all season/year long but maybe enough copies will sell to justify more funky soulful jazz recordings.
George Duke says he “stretched a little more into the funk area on this one because I had so many people ask me to.” Think he’s kidding? The first half of Is Love Enough?, which is much more like his previous Warner Bros. albums Snapshot and Illusions than last year’s Muir Woods Suite, is heavy on the funk and slow jams. On the opening of “Kinda Low,” Duke, bassist Byron Miller, and drummer Ndugu Chancler declare “Once ya funky, ya always funky!” The groove is deep, with the sole exception of the sweet “Fill the Need.” Duke gets jazzier after the instrumental “Time and Space” interlude (futuristic instrumentals open and close the album). After Duke’s uptempo “Back in the Day” instrumental, he lets Jonathan Butler and Dianne Reeves take over “This Place I Call Home.” Dori Caymmi is featured on “Whatever Happened To…” Duke pulls in many of his frequent partners, including Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell, Phil Perry, and George Howard. Also appearing on the album are Doc Powell and Norman Brown. Of his fellow musicians, Duke says “each of you brought gourmet dishes to the musical table.” Is Love Enough? features a table with equal portions of funk and contemporary jazz. Whether you enjoy one or the other, or both, you’ll feel satisfied.