corine & george duke

Corine and George Duke

*The power of music is universal. And George Duke is no exception.

In fact, Duke – who’s headlining next Saturday night  at the Playboy Jazz Festival – credits his time working with Jeffrey Osborne on the former L.T.D. frontman’s latest album, “A Time For Love,” for helping him cope with the death of his wife Corine, who passed away last year from compilations of cancer.

“It is a special project because I was dealing with her illness all through during this record, but in many ways this album, the Jeffrey Osborne album, really kind of helped me channel all this,” Duke told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “Music is a very interesting thing. It can console. It can antagonize. It can teach. It does all of these things. That’s what’s so wonderful about the creative process…I have the most fun in the studio with Jeffrey than anybody else. We just laugh half the time. Laughter is very important, even in the midst of tragedy. I found that very comforting.”

In addition to Duke, “A Time for Love” features Chaka Khan, Everette Harp, Kamasi Washington, Rick Braun, Walt Fowle and Paul Jackson Jr. The 12-track offering finds Osborne fulfilling a longstanding desire by putting his spin on classic love songs and pop standards.

“The most important thing for me with him is that I wanted him to truly love each one of these songs,” Duke said about bringing out the best in Osborne on “A Time For Love.” I didn’t want him to do it because the record company told him to do it or I wanted him to do it. I said ‘You do these songs because you love it. That way I know you’re heart will come out.’”

Although Khan was obtained for “A Time For Love,” the night the songstress was slated to work with Duke and Osborne took a tragic turn with Corine’s death.

“At the time when she died we were actually working on the Jeffrey Osborne record,” Duke recalled. “I’ve never actually told this story. The day that Corine passed…we were actually supposed to do a duet with Chaka and Jeffrey. BET was here with all of their cameras to film it. Their managers were there. Everybody was here but me. I was upstairs with Corine and she had a thing that happened and during the middle of this she passed.”

The tragedy, coupled with Khan being sick, caused the session to be cancelled. Despite the circumstances, trio finished the record.

“I’m OK now. Death is part of life and you got to move on,” Duke stated. “You’ve got to learn to compartmentalize but I have my moments.”

Corine’s passing resulted “a serious type A personality” for Duke, who confessed to being too busy making funeral arrangements, among other things, to fully grieve. Even the idea of going into the studio proved too much for the entertainer.

“I really couldn’t,” said Duke. “It just wasn’t there”

Months would pass before Duke’s desire to make music returned early one morning while he was on the Smooth Jazz cruise in Cabo in October.

“I went out on the deck and ideas began to come. I started writing. I started humming melodies and stuff just started coming,” he stated, adding that three of the songs he came up with are on his forthcoming solo album, which is slated for a June release.

As for “A Time For Love,” the Duke ranks it ranks “right up there with anything I’ve ever done that I truly respect.”

“Without a doubt it’s one of the most fun records I’ve done. Not considering the circumstances I was going through personally while this was going on, but that made it memorable. I’ve done a few dabbles like this with different people, but Jeffrey had not. So for me it was a labor of love to do this for somebody that I love and respect so much with Jeffrey,” he expressed. “As far as I’m concerned, I put my foot in these arrangements and I wanted to tailor-make this music for Jeffrey. So for me it ranks very, very high.”

Jeffrey Osborne’s “A Time For Love” is available now in stores and online.

See George Duke and Jeffrey Osborne at the Playboy Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 15 at the Hollywood Bowl.