American jazz musician George Duke, a pioneering keyboardist who collaborated with Frank Zappa during the 1970s, has died at the age of 67. Former Supremes singer Scherrie Payne confirmed Duke died at St John’s hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday.His latest album, DreamWeaver, was released in July, as a tribute to his wife Corine, who died from cancer a year ago.
He is survived by his sons, Rasheed and John.
“I just received the devastating and sad news that the great musician, George Duke, passed away this evening,” said Payne.
“It was just one year earlier, 18 July, that his beloved wife and my friend, Corine, went to be with the Lord.”
An accomplished musician across multiple genres, including jazz, funk and R&B, Duke released more than 30 solo albums, as well as producing and composing tracks for several musicians including Miles Davis, Gladys Knight and Anita Baker.
His debut album, George Duke Quartet, was released in 1966, while he was studying at the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music.
“They approached me at the break and asked me if I’d like to record an album. Needless to say, I was in a state of shock,” he recalled of the offer.
Despite calling the album “the worst record” he ever made, Duke went on to work with several talented artists in the late 1960s, including the contemporary jazz violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty, with whom he recorded an album in 1969.
After meeting Zappa that same year, the pair worked together on a series of records including Chunga’s Revenge, 200 Motels and Apostrophe.
During a career spanning five decades, Duke composed and produced music for film and was an accomplished music director, leading several prestigious events including the Nelson Mandela international tribute concert in London in 1989 and a tribute to French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsborough at the Montreux Music Festival.
His work has also been sampled by musicians such as Kanye West and Ice Cube and he featured on the Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, Jill Scott’s, third album.
Devastated by the death of his wife, Corine, in 2012, he released DreamWeaver less than a month ago as a tribute to her.
“I don’t want people to get the idea that this is a morbid record, because it’s more about celebration,” Duke said.
Duke was due to perform with his band in Los Angeles in early September.