George Duke

After Hours

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After years of producing albums which were more pop/funk than jazz oriented, George Duke simmers down, leaves off the R&B vocals, and takes a little creative license on the self-proclaimed "mood record" After Hours. While his recent Muir Woods Suite showed off his affinity for classical music, here he's at his best on the meditative Vince Guaraldi-type trio ballads "Together as One" and "Sweet Dreams," which glide along on the improvisational and gently swinging graces of Christian McBride and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. A whole project in this vein would have been welcome, but Duke charters other new territory, too; on the easy grooving "The Touch" and the almost new agey "From Dusk Till Dawn," he borrows the actual Rhodes from Joe Sample but winds up perfectly simulating Bob James' "Taxi" vibe, especially on the exploratory solo on the latter tune. The untrained ear might swear it's an actual James recording, but Duke's a clever enough producer to go beyond strict imitation. "The Touch" achieves an intriguing low-toned brew, as Sheridon Stokes' bass flute melody drifts gently over a hypnotic weave of Larry Kimpel's bass and Duke's Rhodes. And Duke switches off liberally from piano to synth to Rhodes on the frenetic, McBride and Chancler driven musical traffic jam "Rush Hour/Road Rage," the only piece which recalls the zaniness of Duke's best hard hitting R&B, only with a tougher fusion approach. Sound effects of a closing car door and shoes on pavement form the open door for the more relaxing, but never dull, evening that is to follow.

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