Déjà Vu is 2010's bookend to 2008's Dukey Treats. That record explored George Duke's funk roots and channeled everything from Earth, Wind & Fire to P-Funk, artists who inspired his own successful run of funk outings. Déjà Vu revisits Duke's love of electric funky jazz. Here he recalls some of the production and musical techniques he employed in the '70s. Along with playing a load of synths (mono and analog), Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, clavinet, acoustic piano, and even miniMoog bass are in abundance, too. The production is pure retro; compared to the contemporary jazz recordings of the 21st century, Déjà Vu sounds almost organic. Duke composed, produced, and arranged the set as well. "A Melody" recalls -- seamlessly -- the sounds and textures explored on 1979's A Brazilian Love Affair. A chorus of backing vocalists glides above a modern samba groove, driven by various synth strings and percussion and rhythms held steady by drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. and bassist Michael Manson. The breezy melody gives way to some fine inside improvisation. "You Touch My Brain" is slippery laid-back funk à la Sly Stone's Fresh album, with a nice trumpet break by Nicholas Payton. "What Goes Around Comes Around" features some nice piano, an excellent vocal through a synth, and a gorgeous Everette Harp soprano solo. "Ripple in Time" is dedicated to Miles Davis. Duke is is clearly inspired by Davis' Tutu period. It's a lengthy but moody beginning, but cracks into a beautiful funky vamp at the two-minute mark. Duke's bass sound is big and meaty; Oscar Brashear provides excellent trumpet work next to Harp's tenor sax before a badass guitar by Jef Lee Johnson claims the vamp and works it to death. "Stupid Is as Stupid Does" might have come from his Feel or Faces in Reflection outings from the mid-'70s. Hubert Laws' signature flute appears, as does Bob Sheppard's tenor. The title track is the biggest surprise: closing out the album, it reflects the drama of John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra, with Duke handling the guitar sounds on a Motif ES8! The violin playing by Sarah Thornblade is a dynamic foil. Déjà Vu is Duke's most consistently satisfying and eclectic recording since 1995's Illusions.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek