Jazz keyboardist George Duke dies at 67 

  • Lefty Shivambu/2007 Gallo Images file photo

George Duke, the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist and producer who got his start at an old San Francisco jazz club, has died. He was 67.

In his 40-year-plus career, Duke was known for embracing synthesizers to create a sound that infused acoustic jazz, electronic jazz, funk, R&B and soul.

A representative for Duke said the performer died Monday night in Los Angeles. Duke was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Duke's son, Rashid, thanked his father's fans in a statement issued Tuesday.

"The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father's friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming," he said. "Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support."

Duke began his career in the mid-1960s after joining the house band at San Francisco's Half Note jazz club, which was fronted by singer Al Jarreau. The venue is now the Independent in the Fillmore district.

Duke was born in San Rafael. He appeared on a number of Frank Zappa albums and played in the Don Ellis Orchestra, in Cannonball Adderley's band and with jazz musician Stanley Clarke. Duke also played keyboard on Michael Jackson's multiplatinum 1979 album, "Off the Wall."

Duke's wife, Corine, died from cancer last year. He was unable to make music for months, but he overcame his grief to create the album "DreamWeaver," released last month. It features a fusion of sounds and a touching tribute to his late wife on the romantic piano-driven ballad "Missing You."

Duke said he learned a lot about music from going to church, which helped him add a funk style to his sound. He played in high school jazz groups and was heavily influenced by Miles Davis. He earned degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco State University.

On tour as part of the George Duke Trio, he performed in Los Angeles at a show where Adderley, Zappa and Quincy Jones were in attendance. Duke soon joined Zappa on tour for a year in 1969. He also collaborated on several albums with Zappa as a member of his Mothers of Invention band, including "Chunga's Revenge," "The Grand Wazoo" and "Over-Nite Sensation."

Duke joined Adderley's band in 1971. He met Clarke through Adderley, and they formed the Clarke/Duke Project. Their song "Sweet Baby" was a Top 20 hit on the Billboard pop charts.

Duke became a solo artist in 1976 and released more than 30 solo albums.

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