On August 5, 2013, the world lost an extraordinary musical voice and dedicated educator – and the Institute lost a longtime friend. For over a decade, George Duke served as Musical Director for the Institute’s annual All-Star Gala Concerts, which featured winners of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition performing alongside legendary jazz artists. In addition, Duke participated in many of the Institute’s international performances and education tours.
Pianist and producer George Duke enjoyed an astounding career, taking part in hundreds of projects across every musical genre and receiving numerous GRAMMY awards and nominations. In the late ’60s, Duke formed a group with singer Al Jarreau that became the house band for San Francisco’s Half Note Club. He also performed locally with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. While collaborating with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, Duke began creating the West Coast response to the fusion coming out of the East Coast. He then joined Frank Zappa’s band and performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Nancy Wilson as a member of Cannonball Adderley’s group. During this same period, Duke began working with Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, and Flora Purim, forming what would become his musical family for the next several decades. Throughout the ’70s, Duke released a series of dynamic fusion and funk albums, including the chart-topping Reach For It. In the decades that followed, Duke continued to expand his career as a recording artist, composer, and producer, working with an amazingly diverse array of artists including Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson, Dianne Reeves, The Pointer Sisters, Gladys Knight, and Miles Davis. Duke continued to record in a wide variety of styles, tour with his own group, and perform with Stanley Clarke and David Sanborn.