Rest In Peace, George Duke



Legendary keyboardist George Duke has passed at the age of 67. Left behind are over 30 solo albums and credit for creating bridges between Brazilian music, funk, R&B, and jazz. His work crossed several decades and included collaborations with Miles Davis, Anita Baker, Frank Zappa, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, and George Clinton – some of the very best

His work carried over the generations and has been sampled by Daft Punk, Common, Kanye West, MF Doom, Madlib, Pete Rock, Ice Cube, and A Tribe Called Quest.

In July of this year, Duke released a new album called DreamWeaver in memory of his wife who passed just over a year ago.

Duke and his ongoing contributions to music will be sorely missed.

Below, watch Duke perform one of our favorite tracks, “Dukey Stick,” with Sheila E in studio. After the jump, find rare footage of a full live show at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Billy Cobham.

Montreux Jazz Festival performance after the jump

The Influence of Betty Davis Decoded


Recently we stumbled across a great two part article on entitled The Prototype: Betty Davis Lit The Spark That Ignited Today’s Music Inferno. The boldly title piece does not flinch or waver in proving this point. The article is both gripping and compelling, arguing that not only did Betty Davis materially influence Miles Davis’ music and personal style, but she went on to influence many others in the process. Statements like “Davis is arguably the prototype of every single black female vocalist of note in the 21st century” certainly give you something to think about.

The premise for the article can be further summed up with the excerpts below.

When it comes to the influence that Betty Davis bestowed on music, her individual work is always an afterthought when held up against her lasting impression on former husband, legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Fact about it, whenever her name is mentioned in print, it’s immediately followed by “ex-wife of Miles Davis”.

The extent of how Betty Davis’ existence changed American music goes so far beyond her influence on Miles Davis, and it would be an insult to even describe it as a “ripple effect”, insinuating a pebble dropped into a pond. Her impact has been so severe that it warrants the quantification of a “tsunami effect”, more of a meteor striking the Pacific Ocean.

An awesome, engrossing read!

Read Part I on

Read Part II on

Exclusive Interview: See Sza Blossom


by Andrea K. Castillo

Her voice is sweet and her lyrics are filled with emotion. Her music digs deeper than the surface, and is crafted with precision. Her name is Sza and she is here to share her music and herself to the world. Take a glimpse inside her mind in this interview with Giant Step contributor, Andrea K. Castillo.

I first became familiar with your EP through Giant Step and I immediately downloaded, and I listened, and listened, and thought, “Wow, this is really great! Let me learn more about this girl.” So I read all your press stuff and decided to do an interview, so here it is. We’re in the time of Sza. Your EP, See Sza Run, has been out for a few weeks now, tell me a little bit about the process, I know you worked with a bunch of different producers, how was that experience?

Sza: Super. A lot of these happened by chance. You’d be surprised at how any people don’t give you beats or don’t give you permission for anything, so I pretty much stole three-quarters of my project. Once they [the producers] heard it, they weren’t as angry with me. It was definitely interesting, I was like “That sounds good, MINE!”, and just ran with it.

So it’s seven tracks, and when listening it is very atmospheric and I can see what you are talking about. It’s a little dark, but I like that, and your lyrics are very refined. How long have you been writing?

Sza: That’s a really good question. I’ve been a writer, prior to singing or anything, for a very long time. That was my strong suit. Even in high school I was in AP English…writing is my thing. I’m a serious reader and heavily into poetry, so before I even opened my mouth and thought “Maybe I should try to translate this into something, it’s crowded in here”, I had to find a way to get these thoughts out of my brain.

You paint a picture with your words, and in regards to your visuals, I noticed across the board there are a lot of flowers; the album artwork, the music videos. Can you tell us more about your choice to use floral imagery in your work?

Sza: My mom was somewhat of a botanist, so gardening, plant life, that’s all her sh*t, and my dad was super into science. I went to school for science, so I love plant life and wild life. Knowing a lot about flowers and what they represent and the energy they bring…I use a lot of tiger lilies in my work because they used to grow in my backyard all the time; those are my favorite, they’re so pretty.

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Read the rest of the interview after the jump

January Next Step Artist Spotlight: Annabel (lee) & Richard E


Congratulations to Annabel (lee) & Richard E for being our January 2012 Next Step winners!

Combining jazz, folk, and classical, Annabel (lee) & Richard E draw inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe, Debussy, Miles Davis, Nick Drake, and Joni Mitchell to create rich emotive music that touches deeply – “melancholy magic,” they call it.

Annabel and Richard’s story itself is anything but dim. The two met via their MySpace music pages, carried on a six month online courtship, were later kept apart due to visa challenges, and connected the dots between New York City, London, Paris, and California to eventually (finally) tie the knot. Makes for some interesting music, we’d say.

Having just finished mixing their debut album, Annabel (lee) & Richard E: By the Sea and Other Solitary Places, the duo is planning some acoustic gigs around Los Angeles (including at Rockpaper Coffee Co) as well as a single release!

We are delighted to share the new single, “Alone,” to be officially released in a few weeks. An interpretation of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, the song was inspired while Annabel and Richard resided on the South Coast of England in Hastings where Annabel reported hearing “voices.” The recording includes the windows opened “ever so slightly to capture the sound of a subtle wind coming through, hauntingly.” Listen to it below!

For free download is a remix of an original track entitlted “My Mistake” by Siberian house/jazz music producer Cortes (aka Peter Shallmin). Sounding divine.

Annabel (lee) & Richard E – “Alone”

Richard E & Annabel (lee) – “My Mistake” (Cortes Bossavantgarde Mix) [MP3]