George Duke On The Making Of DreamWeaver (VIDEO)

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Out of devastating pain comes DreamWeaver, the new disc, which GRAMMY Award-winning keyboardist/composer/arranger/producer George Duke considers his “most honest album in several years.” The making of DreamWeaver occurred after his wife, Corine, passed away. Struck with grief, he found it difficult to work during that period. “I didn’t feel like creating any music, which was odd, because normally that’s the easiest thing for me to do,” he says, “Sometimes, I would walk into the studio and say, ‘Nah. It’s not going to happen.'”

Duke’s mojo returned while on a Capital Cruise. During the first couple of days, he didn’t play any music, but did check out some of the other bands. “By the third day, something happened,” he remembers. After returning to his cabin around 4 a.m. from listening to music, inspiration ignited. “I went back on the deck and watched the sun come up. A couple of songs started coming to me; I got out my pen and paper, and started writing.”

With the assistance of an illustrious cast of musicians that includes bassists Christian McBride and Stanley Clarke; singers Teena Marie, Lalah Hathaway, Rachelle Ferrell, and Jeffrey Osborne; guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. and the late Jef Lee Johnson; among others, DreamWeaver, set for release July 16, 2013 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, finds Duke emphasizing more instrumentals than in the past as well as concentrating more on his mastery on various synthesizers.

Like the bulk of Duke’s discography, DreamWeaver accentuates eclecticism with 15 tracks that range from swinging jazz and sweat funk to gospel-inflected pop and sensual R&B ballads. As the title implies, Duke likens mixing all of the idioms to weaving a sonic fabric. He also compares that stylistic dynamism to life. “Everything is in transition — from hot to cold, from life to death,” he philosophizes, “I wanted to incorporate that kind of thing and include a lot of things that are a part of my life.”

The disc begins and ends with allusions of nothingness, starting with the title track, a sparse etude, and finishes with “Happy Trails,” a misty ballad that was at first just dedicated to Duke’s wife, but later gained more emotional poignancy because of the sudden passing of Johnson, whose distinctive guitar work fades out the conclusion. In between, the disc unfolds with the evocative, mid-tempo modern jazz composition, “Stones of Orion,” showcasing Duke’s crystalline piano improvisations along with longtime collaborator Clarke on upright bass; the feisty 15-minute workout, “Burnt Sausage Jam,” a track that Duke refurbished from his 2002 Facing the Music sessions with Johnson, McBride, and drummer Lil’ John Roberts; the frisky gangster-leaning groover, “Round the Way Girl;” the feet-friendly burner, “Jazzmatazz;” and the heartfelt ballad, “Missing You,” another direct tribute to Duke’s wife.

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