George Duke (born 12 January 1946 in San Rafael, California) is a piano and synthesizer pioneer and singer. He made a name for himself with the album The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. He is known for his solo work as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly Frank Zappa.
Duke attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley before earning a bachelor's degree in music from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
He appeared on a number of Zappa's albums in the early and mid-1970s, including Chunga's Revenge, 200 Motels, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, Apostrophe, One Size Fits All, Bongo Fury and Roxy & Elsewhere. Duke's other high-profile collaborators include 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 fusion group Steps Ahead, for whom he produced the track "Magnetic Love." He also served as a producer and composer for two instrumental tracks on Miles Davis albums: "Backyard Ritual" (from Tutu, 1986) and "Cobra" (from Amandla, 1989). He has also worked with a number of 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 been fairly visible in the R&B world thanks to funk gems like "Reach for It" and "Dukey Stick" when in 1979 he ventured to Rio to record probably his best known album called, 'A Brazilian Love Affair'. He employed singers Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento and percussionist Airto Moreira. Although not the return to instrumental jazz some hoped it would be, this musical effort does contain its share of jazz-influenced material. From a jazz standpoint, the album's most noteworthy songs include Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela," the charming "Brazilian Sugar," "Love Reborn," and the exuberant "Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite." Meanwhile, Nascimento's vocal on the ballad "Ao Que Vai Nascer" is a fine example of Brazilian pop at its most sensuous. But however one labels or categorizes this music, the album is clearly a labour of love from start to finish.
Duke has also 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 acclaimed late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season.
Duke's song "I Love You More" was sampled by Daft Punk for their hit "Digital Love". The Duke track "Guilty" was sampled by Mylo in his song "Guilty of Love". His song "For Love" was sampled by MF Doom in "I Hear Voices". And his song "Someday" was sampled by Common in "Break My Heart".
Recently Duke worked with Jill Scott on the 3rd single from her sophomore album "Whenever You're Around". Since it was release, has peaked at #89 on U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.