George Duke was born on January 12, 1946 in San Rafael, California and raised in Marin City. It was at the young age of 4 that he first became interested in the piano when his mother took him to see Duke Ellington in concert. He began his formal piano studies at the age of 7, at his local Baptist church. Attending Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
Initially he played with friends from garages to local clubs, George quickly eased his way into session work, before getting his master’s degree in composition from San Francisco State University. Although starting out playing classical music, his musician cousin Charles Burrell convinced him to switch to jazz and improvise what he wanted to do.
1967 saw Duke venturing into jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, and recorded with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention on a number of albums through the 1970s. He also played with Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler from Zappa’s Overnite Sensation band that he was a part of, along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour. Lynn Davis and Sheila E recorded with him on his late-1970s solo albums Don’t Let Go and Master of the Game.
During the 1980s he collaborated with bassist Stanley Clarke and produced the Clarke/Duke Project that released three albums, he served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on the Miles Davis albums Tutu and Amandla, worked with a number of Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora Purim, and in the 1992 film Leap of Faith featured gospel songs and choir produced by him and choir master Edwin Hawkins.
Duke was musical director for the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in London, temporarily replaced Marcus Miller as musical director of NBC’s late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season, and was a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers. He worked with Jill Scott on her third studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3; and put together a trio with David Sanborn and Marcus Miller for a tour across the United States.
His educator side had him teaching a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt College in Oakland, California. He was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for After Hours in 1999, was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame in 2012, and was honored with a tribute album My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, produced by long-time friend and collaborator Al Jarreau, that received a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album in 2015.
As leader he recorded some four dozen albums and as sideman he worked with such artists as Third World, The Keynotes, Gene Ammons, Billy Cobham, Eddie Henderson, Alphonse Mouzon, Michael Jackson, Deniece Williams, Miles Davis, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Chanté Moore, Joe Sample, Phil Collins, Regina Belle, Teena Marie, Joe Williams, Gerald Wilson and Larisa Dolina among many others.
Keyboard pioneer, vocalist guitarist, trombonist, producer and composer George Duke passed away on August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67. His songs have been sampled by Daft Punk, Kanye West and Ice Cube among numerous others.
James Robert Haslip was born in the Bronx, New York on December 31, 1951 to Puerto Rican immigrants, Spanish being his first language and learned to speak English in kindergarten. His family moved to Huntington, New York when he was four years old. At age seven, he began playing drums and then moved onto other instruments such as trumpet and tuba until at age 15 when he started playing bass.
Considering himself self-taught though he took music lessons and went to a private music school, he originally went to a local music shop with his father and purchased a right-handed bass and learned to play it upside down, as he is left-handed. Surrounded by music as a young boy, from visiting nightclubs and concert venues, there was always music in the house as well. His older brother listened to classic jazz, his father to Latin and orchestra jazz and his aunt listening to sappy stuff like Jerry Vale and Johnny Mathis. In high school, Jimmy created his first band called Soul Mine with his high school classmates, playing soul music at school dances and parties.
By the early 1970s he toured alongside musicians, and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1976, playing with guitarists Tommy Bolin and Harvey Mandel. A founding member of the jazz fusion group the Yellowjackets, in 2012 he took a year hiatus that turned permanent and has gone on to produce independent projects as well as being involved with the charitable organization Union Station Foundation that serves the needs of the homeless. He has worked with Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Bruce Hornsby, Rita Coolidge, Gino Vannelli, Kiss, Tommy Bolin, Allan Holdsworth, Marilyn Scott, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Donald Fagen, and Anita Baker.
A part of a combo with Allan Holdsworth, Alan Pasqua, and Chad Wackerman, he has also collaborated with Jing Chi with Robben Ford and Vinnie Colaiuta, and Modereko. Bass player and record producer Jimmy Haslip, who is an early user of the five-string electric bass, continues to produce and perform.
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Charles “Don” Alias was born on December 25, 1939 in Harlem, New York City, the son of Caribbean immigrants. Absorbing the lessons of neighborhood Cuban and Puerto Rican hand drummers, while in high school he played conga with the Eartha Kitt Dance Foundation, and in 1957 accompanied the singer at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Mothballing his musical career to study biology at Erie, Pennsylvania’s Cannon College, he followed those studies with a stint at Boston’s Carnegie Institute for Biochemistry. While there Alias regularly moonlighted at local clubs in the company of students of the nearby Berklee School of Music, among them conguero Bill Fitch and bassist Gene Perla, and played bass in a short-lived trio featuring Chick Corea on guitar and Tony Williams on drums.
When Perla landed a gig with Nina Simone, he convinced the singer to hire Alias to assume drumming duties. By the end of his three-year residency he was serving as musical director, and eventually captured the attention of Miles Davis, with whom Simone regularly shared festival bills. He would go on to record four albums with Miles Davis including sitting in to play the drums on the recording of Miles Runs the Voodoo Down on the album Bitches Brew in 1969, when neither Lenny White nor Jack DeJohnette were able to play the marching band-inspired rhythm.
Settling back in New York City in the late Seventies he along with Gene Perla formed the Afro-Cuban fusion group Stone Alliance, which would be resurrected in 1980 with pianist Kenny Kirkland and tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer. Performing on hundreds of recording sessions, he can be heard playing with Carla Bley, Uri Caine, Jack DeJohnette, Roberta Flack, Joe Farrell, Dan Fogelberg, Bill Frisell, Hal Galper, Kenny Garrett, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Joe Lovano, David Sanborn, Philip Bailey, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Lalo Schifrin, Nina Simone, Steve Swallow, the Brecker Brothers, James Taylor, Weather Report, Lou Reed, Blood Sweat & Tears, Pat Metheny, Don Grolnick Group and Jaco Pastorius, on the short list.
Percussionist Don Alias, best known for playing congas and other hand drums, but was also a capable drum kit performer, passed away suddenly in his Manhattan home on March 29, 2006 in New York City.
Cornell Luther Dupree was born on December 19, 1942 and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. Growing up with King Curtis, he graduated from I.M. Terrell High School and began his career playing in the Atlantic Records studio band, recording on albums by Aretha Franklin and King Curtis as a member of his band, The King Pins. He played on the 1969 Lena Horne and Gábor Szabó recording, as well as recordings with Archie Shepp, Grover Washington, Jr., Snooky Young and Miles Davis.
A founding member of the band Stuff, which featured fellow guitarist Eric Gale, Richard Tee on keyboards, Steve Gadd and Chris Parker on drums, and Gordon Edwards on bass, they recorded several albums. He and Tee recorded together on many occasions, and in addition he recorded with Joe Cocker, Brook Benton, Peter Wolf, Hank Crawford, Charles Earland, Eddie Harris, Gene Harris, Donny Hathaway, Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef, Arif Mardin, Les McCann, Jack McDuff, David Newman, Bernard Purdie, Buddy Rich, Marlena Shaw, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Cedar Walton and Charles Williams.
In 2009, Dupree appeared in a documentary titled Still Bill, chronicling the life and times of Bill Withers. Appearing on stage playing a guitar-led version of Grandma’s Hands, Withers joined him from the audience to sing the lyrics. At the time he was suffering from emphysema and played his guitar on a stool, breathing using an oxygen machine.
Guitarist Cornell Dupree recorded nine albums, wrote a book on soul and blues guitar: Rhythm and Blues Guitar and reportedly recorded on 2,500 sessions before passing away on May 8, 2011 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas awaiting for a lung transplant.
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Walter Booker was born December 17, 1933 in Prairie View, Texas and moved with his family to Washington, D.C. in the mid-1940s. He played clarinet and alto saxophone in college with a concert band. In 1959 he began on bass while in the US Army, serving side-by-side in the same unit with Elvis Presley. He worked with Andrew White in Washington after his discharge, playing in the JFK Quintet during the early 1960s.
Moving to New York City in 1964, Booker was hired by Donald Byrd. After his stint with Byrd, he recorded and toured with Ray Bryant, Betty Carter, Chick Corea, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Charles McPherson, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Milt Jackson, Harold Vick, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. All this was done before joining the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1969, starting an association which lasted until Adderley’s death in 1975. He would go on to record and perform with Joe Zawinul, Joe Williams, Gene Ammons, Joe Chambers, Roy Hargrove, Archie Shepp, Kenny Barron and numerous others.
Walter’s next gig was a tour the United States with the Shirley Horn Trio, along with Billy Hart on drums. During the same time, Booker designed, built, and ran the Boogie Woogie Studio in NYC, a mecca for musicians from all over the world. Through the Eighties he played and recorded with Nat Adderley, Nick Brignola, Arnett Cobb, Richie Cole, John Hicks, Billy Higgins, Clifford Jordan, Pharoah Sanders, Sarah Vaughan, Leroy Williams, Marcus Belgrave, Roni Ben-Hur, Larry Willis, John HIcks and Phil Woods.
Booker married pianist Bertha Hope with whom he played in a trio that included drummer Jimmy Cobb. In addition to his own quintet, he also formed Elmollenium, based on the same core group as the Quintet plus Bertha and dedicated to playing the music of Elmo Hope.
Bassist Walter Booker, a highly underrated stylist whose playing was marked by voice-like inflections, glissandos and tremolo techniques, passed away in his Manhattan home on November 24, 2006, at the age of 72.
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