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TSJR’s Featured Smooth Jazz Artist

A profile of our selected smooth jazz artist of the month

For the next few months, TSJR would like to take some time to pay homage to some of the late great jazz artists who helped to break ground and pave the road for what we now know and love as smooth jazz. Stroll with us for awhile as we recall the wondrous years when we had these greats in our midst, contributing their very souls to this living music. This month, we honor: 

George Duke & Jeff Golub – Forever Weaving Dreams Up On Avenue Blue

George Duke  – (January 12, 1946 – August 5, 2013) :: George Duke was a multi-faceted musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer, and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He worked with numerous acclaimed artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer, and professor of music.

He first made a name for himself with the album The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. He was known primarily for thirty-odd solo albums as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly with the avant-garde musician Frank Zappa.

Beginning in 1967, Duke experimented further with jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, while he acquainted himself with Zappa. Duke appeared on several of Zappa’s albums in the early and mid-1970s, including Chunga’s Revenge, 200 Motels, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, Apostrophe, Over-Nite Sensation, One Size Fits All, Bongo Fury and Roxy & Elsewhere.

Duke’s other high-profile collaborators included the aforementioned Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham, Cannonball Adderley, his cousin Dianne Reeves, Deniece Williams, Jeffrey Osborne, George Clinton, Anita Baker, Regina Belle, Rachelle Ferrell, Marilyn Scott, and Mike Mainieri’s jazz fusion group Steps Ahead, for whom he produced the track “Magnetic Love.” Duke also played on Herb Ellis’ album, Soft Shoe (Concord, 1974) with Harry Sweets Edison. Duke played piano and organ.

Duke also served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on Miles Davis albums: “Backyard Ritual” (from Tutu, 1986) and “Cobra” (from Amandla, 1989).

Duke also worked with several notable Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira, and singer Flora Purim. Sheila E appeared on Duke’s late-1970s solo albums Don’t Let Go and Master of the Game.

Duke had also been visible in the R&B world, releasing funk-based songs like “Reach for It” and “Dukey Stick.”

In 1979, he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where he recorded A Brazilian Love Affair. He employed singers Purim and Nascimento and percussionist Moreira. The album featured some Latin jazz and jazz-influenced material.

From a jazz standpoint, the album’s most noteworthy songs include Nascimento’s “Cravo e Canela,” “Love Reborn,” and “Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite.” One track from the album, “Brazilian Sugar,” was featured on the 2006 video game Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. Nascimento’s vocal on the ballad “Ao Que Vai Nascer” is an example of Brazilian pop at its most sensuous. This acclaimed album contained a wide variety of genres.

Duke worked as musical director at numerous large-scale musical events, including the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, London in 1988. In 1989, he temporarily replaced Marcus Miller as musical director of NBC’s late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season. Duke was also a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers.

Duke worked with Jill Scott on her third studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3; guesting on the track, “Whenever You’re Around.” In the summer of 2011, he put together a trio with David Sanborn and Marcus Miller for a tour across the U.S., playing at  more than 20 sold-out shows.

Duke was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for After Hours in 1999.

 By popular vote, Duke was inducted into The Soul Music Hall Of Fame at SoulMusic.com in December 2012.

Truly one who was a complete and down-to-earth musician with an uncanny aptitude for musicality and life, he left such a profound and indelible mark on music. He will be forever greatly missed.  – Steve Giachardi

 
Jeff Golub (April 15, 1955 – January 1, 2015) Jeff Golub was a contemporary jazz guitarist with 12 solo albums and three CDs as the leader of the instrumental band, Avenue Blue. Before becoming an instrumentalist, Golub worked as a sideman to several successful rock and pop artists.

He was arguably best known for his work with the iconic rocker Rod Stewart with whom he played from 1988 until 1995 performing on four albums and five world tours, as well as recording the live DVD, One Night Only, at the Royal Albert Hall.

Born in Copley, Ohio, outside of Akron, Golub started playing by emulating 1960s blues rock guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix. Then, following up on the artists that these musicians cited as their inspiration, he delved deeper into the blues listening to Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, plus the three Kings:  B.B., Albert, and Freddie.

Golub was in his teens when he first heard a Wes Montgomery record. This moment set him on a whole new course which led him to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. While in Boston, he played in The James Montgomery Band.

The guitarist moved to New York in 1980 where his first major gig was with rocker Billy Squier. Golub appeared on seven albums and three world tours with Squire.

He released his first solo recording, Unspoken Words for Gaia Records in 1988, but really embraced his role as band leader and instrumentalist with the release of Avenue Blue in 1994 for Mesa Bluemoon/Atlantic Records.

Golub was also a member of Dave Koz & The Kozmos, the house band of The Emeril Lagasse Show.

A series of misfortunes began to plague the guitarist in the midst of enjoying such a stellar career. In June 2011, he sadly became blind due to collapse of the optic nerve. Despite efforts to raise funds to hopefully combat and reverse the condition, no success was made.

In September 2012, Golub fell on the tracks of a subway but was saved by Good Samaritans. Golub was brought to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center with minor injuries.

Despite these setbacks, the determined guitarist continued to perform, albeit in a very limited manner, appearing with artists like friend and keyboardist Brian Auger.

Golub was later diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) in November 2014 and died of the disease in Manhattan on January 1, 2015. The smooth jazz and rock universe, as well as the music industry in general, was devastated. Those of us in smooth jazz still mention his name whenever talk turns to our most influential and talented guitarists. – Steve Giachardi

To view the discography of George Duke, click here. For Jeff Golub’s discography, click here.