Al Jarreau got his start playing in a jazz trio led by pianist/keyboardist George Duke, so it is fitting that Jarreau pays tribute to Duke, who passed away in 2013, on his 2014 album My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke. It was while working as a vocal rehab counselor at a hospital in San Francisco in the late '60s that Jarreau began singing with Duke's trio. It was also due in part to the popularity of these early performances that both musicians' storied solo careers were launched. On My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, Jarreau delves into a batch of Duke compositions with a select group of guest artists, many of whom also had connections to Duke. Joining Jarreau here are such luminaries as Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Dianne Reeves, and others. Similarly, backing Jarreau at various times is a superb ensemble of musicians including bassist Stanley Clarke (who also produced the album), keyboardists John Beasley and Patrice Rushen, guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., and drummer John "J.R." Robinson. In fact, Duke himself makes an appearance here via the wonders of modern technology on the languidly romantic "Bring Me Joy." Elsewhere, Jarreau turns his sonorous, joyful voice to such Duke songs as "Sweet Baby," "No Rhyme, No Reason," "You Touch My Brain," and more. Ultimately, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke is a heartfelt tribute album that, as with many of Jarreau and Duke's previous albums, feels fresh, warm, and full of love.
My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke Review
by Matt Collar