Duke, who was born in San Rafael, Calif., studied trombone, contrabass and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory, where he graduated in 1967. But his made his name expressing himself on a wide variety of keyboards, from acoustic piano to clavinet to all manner of synthesizers. He became a key player in the development of jazz-fusion in the late ‘60s, particularly after collaborating with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
. The release of their joint album, “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with The George Duke Trio,” cemented his reputation in 1969.
Duke veered into the avant-garde through his work with Zappa, which began with 1970’s “Chunga’s Revenge.” He also appeared in the Zappa movie “200 Motels” in 1971 and played on important Mothers’ albums like “Over-Nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe.”