George Duke: Faces In Reflection

Set from the early days of fusion is imbued with the joy of discovery and displays a virtuosity that's not just about showing off

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This trio set was originally released in 1974, a year pretty close to the dawn as far as fusion was concerned, and the fact that many of its touches and grooves have become more familiar now is perhaps because many musicians in the almost half a century since have recycled them. As with a Nelson Riddle arrangement, the music has become the stuff of cliché through repetition. This, however, takes nothing away from the freshness of this music – or a Riddle arrangement for that matter.

North Beach monkeys around with the then-new technology in a way that would not perhaps be the case in the more conservative era we now live in. Duke’s keyboard virtuosity is never in doubt, but he utilises it in a manner not exclusively intended to show off, a point which is symbolic of an era when “chops” were not fêted in the way they are today.

Faces In Reflection No.1 (Instrumental) is exemplary of the slow build, but without any climatic ending, with restraint being key to the success of the music. Such restraint is not the name of the game on Psychocomatic Dung, and while the display of those “chops” is more overt, we still don’t hear it at the strutting peacock level. Instead the music’s shot through with a joy of discovery that can only be allied closely with the spontaneity that marked jazz out as a distinct musical form back then. That’s arguably less the case these days.

Discography
The Opening; Capricorn; Piano Solo No.1 + 2; Psychocomatic Dung; Faces In Reflection No.1 (Instrumental); Maria Tres Filhos; North Beach; Da Somba; Faces In Reflection No.2 (Vocal) (39.52)
Duke (kyb); John Heard (b); Ndugu (d) Bolic Sound Studios, Inglewood, no dates given, c. 1974.
MPS 0214942MSW