Here we are right in the middle of it! Eight years yesterday, Great Give today, and Thanksgiving right around the corner…we know our heads are spinning down here in The Public Records of An Sibin. However, we also know that this month is the November of jazz; the shelves have been freshly stocked, new cocktails are appearing, and each week there is an awesome album for us to seek refuge in.

Our album this week is no less funky or fresh as it was last week. We are happy to bring you another heavy weight of mid-century American music, George Duke (1946-2013). This keyboardist and singer did a little of everything. He’s composed and produced; heck, he’s even a professor. Duke has worked all over the place and with all sorts of folks from Frank Zappa to Cannonball Adderley.

It all began at a very young age for Duke, around 4 or so (do you see a pattern with all these musicians? Get kids started young and they create funky stuff as adults!) when his mother took him to see Duke Ellington. He played through his youth and earned a BA in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music while later earning a master’s in composition from San Francisco State University. Although originally trained in classical music, he found it too constraining and enjoyed the freedom that improvisation allowed him.

His foray into recording began in 1966 with the release of his first album. He then collaborated with the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Upon hearing his work, both Frank Zappa and Cannonball Adderley asked him to join their outfits. He did and spending time with both groups led him to eventually fuse his version of pop, soul, and funk into a solo jazzy R&B career.

In the 1980s, Duke began to produce and worked with a wide range of musicians. He worked with Gladys Knight, Barry Manilow, A Taste of Honey, and Melissa Manchester to name a few; and was musical director for the Nelson Mandela tribute concert in 1988 and NBC’s Sunday Night for its first season. He also taught a course on jazz at Merritt College. A most impressive career.

The album this week is Duke’s 13th(!) studio work, Follow The Rainbow (Epic, 1979). This album is chock full of keyboards with Duke playing at least 10 different ones. Follow The Rainbow hit #56 on the Billboard 200 and #17 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The whole album top to bottom is excellent. There is never a dead space or anything out of place and each track is significantly different with its arrangement and instrumentation that you do not feel that you are listening to a specific genre at a specific time. Each piece could hold up today and not sound dated.

Come down and explore. We’ve given you a fun shove to start your shelf diving with this one and our new Plymouth Barrel Aged Negronis help you keep your balance!