Jazz was still important in the American era that I was born in, and particularly so in the immediate area where I grew up, when it was mixed with rock and funk, the resulting fusion music that was produced fed my soul. Because of this, my teenage and young adult years had a soundtrack. For those of us who’d been reared on funk and soul, disco – the popular but watered down excuse for funk, forced us to look elsewhere for musical inspiration.
Soul City was located right outside of Manhattan and had a population of 26,000 people. Small yes, but it still supported three independently run record shops, at a time, when music was so important that people bought their music and children were forbidden to touch the family record player or their parent’s records.
For a time, I lived right next to a shop that stocked mostly soul and funk. I spent significant time and money with them. Another, stocked recordings of show tunes, pop singers, big band and nostalgia. I spent less time there because their inventory was extremely adult; their atmosphere a bit stuffy and more sophisticated than my tastes were at the time, and they had a pricing policy that reflected it.
My favorite shop was on the main drag of the business district in the heart of town. There the jazz/funk/fusion that I loved dearly was carried. It was here, on a Saturday afternoon long ago, where a friend played ‘scuse Me Miss for me – a funky Earth Wind and Fire influenced instrumental by the genre-defying George Duke.
I joined the movie while it was already in progress and before I encountered his enormous talents, Duke had been a sideman with Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention; a member of a trio that featured the great Al Jarreau; rocked with the the electrified violinist Jean Luc Ponty and had been a collaborator with the great Cannonball Adderly.
My introduction to Duke’s music coincided with his emergence as a full on commercial funk, pop, band leader, composer, producer and force of nature. Like Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, and Chick Corea, he experimented with the then new vocabulary of the electronic keyboard synthesizers. And like them, he soon proved to be a Master of The Game. I loved George Duke’s stuff, he kept it funky. R.I.P.