46th NAACP Image Awards

We won. My new album, “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” is a tribute to a music master and genius. And on February 5th, it won the NAACP Image Award for Most Outstanding Jazz Album. How wonderfully fitting that Stanley Clarke and Dianne Reeves, who contributed greatly to success of this project, were also nominees in this category…along with Dave Koz and Jonathan Butler. I planned my acceptance speech to be short and sweet and simply name all the people who made this project happen in 45 seconds or less. This plan went totally out the window in the surprise of the moment and the walk and ten stairs to get on stage. I ended up pointing at my son, Ryan, who accompanied me to stage, and said, “I was just telling Ryan that it’s hard to believe I did my first record 40 years ago. And here I am with you today celebrating this new, wonderful project that is a tribute to my old friend George Duke.” That’s all I could get out of my mouth because my heart was in the way. But here’s who I should have thanked:

George Duke and his sons, Rashid and John, Concord Records and John Burke, Joe Gordon, my manager, Joe Turano, Stanley Clarke, Boney James, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Albright, Dr. John, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Kelly Price, Paul Jackson Jr, Jubu, Greg Phillinganes, Patrice Rushen, John Beasley, JR Robinson, Lenny Castro, Mike Cottone, Bobby Sparks, Brandon Coleman, Rob Bacon, Alex Al, Omari Williams, Porcha Clay, Katriz Trinidad, Fred Martin, Seth Presant, and Patrick Lundquist.

I’ll try to be brief in a moment when I could go on and on about the significance and importance of this album being recognized by the NAACP Image Awards. To have “My Old Friend” acknowledged and singled out in any capacity anywhere is of singular importance. The real deal for me is that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has stood up and applauded this first tribute to an exceptional man of color and artist within two years of his passing. This album of mine may be the first tribute to George. A Grammy Award could not proclaim this immense significance. This is a family recognizing one of its members, one of its own, and not letting the opportunity blow by. I’m sure that this project is just one of many that will celebrate George Duke. I dare to say that none of these projects will adequately cover the diversity and brilliance expressed by one man.

George Duke stands alone in a category by himself. You can start with Diz and include Miles and the new voices like Marsalis and Herbie and stand and applaud and shout and scream, but George played and composed across the genres like no one else. Look up fusion music and George will be there right alongside Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Chick Corea. Look up pop music and R&B and George will be there alongside Earth, Wind, and Fire and Stevie Wonder. Look up funk and George will be there alongside Parliment-Funkadelic, George Clinton, James Brown, and Sly Stone. Go a little farther and take a giant step to find a classical piece called “Muir Woods Suite”…George composing for the symphony orchestra. I don’t know how you say all of this in one sentence or one breath…you can’t!

I’ll stop right there.

Thank you again, NAACP Image Awards, and thank you, George Duke!



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