George Duke

Reach for It

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By 1977, the jazz content of George Duke's albums had decreased considerably, and soul and funk had become his main priorities. Reach for It has more to offer from an R&B standpoint than a jazz standpoint, though the fusion it does contain is first rate -- including the Latin-influenced "Hot Fire" and "Lemme at It" (an aggressive gem that's in a class with some of the keyboardist/pianist's best work with the Billy Cobham/Duke Band). Reach's heavy R&B content resulted in Duke facing the same accusation as George Benson, Patrice Rushen and other improvisers who moved away from jazz in the '70s -- that he was a sellout. But none of this CD's R&B content comes across as contrived or formulaic. In fact, Duke is downright inspired on the haunting "Just for You" and the Parliament-influenced title song. Even so, it's always regrettable when a gifted improviser pretty much abandons jazz -- and Duke is a prime example. It should be stressed that the high rating awarded this CD is primarily from an R&B standpoint -- and that those strictly interested in hearing Duke playing jazz would be better off investing in earlier efforts like Faces in Reflection.

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