Rocking with Adrian Duke
Meeting piano player/singer/songwriter Adrian Duke at Lamplighter Coffee on Addison in Richmond, VA. Thoughtful, self-deprecating and humble about his prodigious talent, he becomes more and more comfortable this sunny morning, sipping his ever-present Coca-Cola.
Imagine his background as a seriously educated, highly trained classical musician. “Growing up," he says, "we weren’t allowed to listen to popular music.”
It was deep into his academic training, mastering the harpsichord, of all things, when he changes course, rents out a garage in Carytown, drags in a piano, and woodsheds the hell out of the whole deal in one big fabulous mess of stride keyboards and funky voodoo.
“Blame it on Elton John and Pinball Wizard,” he recalls with a grin. “This was the first time I heard rock and roll.”
From explaining why he always sets up left of stage (“where the piano is supposed to be in every orchestra”), to his early discovery of Dr. John (leading to more time in the garage “practicing the New Orleans sound hour after hour, day after day”), to posing with hay bales and playing rhythm guitar in country bands (“so I always had work”), it’s clear his thoughtful approach to performing as a professional musician is well learned and based in achieving excellence.
Today Adrian performs across the country, especially around Richmond and Charlottesville delivering his bayou blues, classic soul and contemporary coverage of some surprisingly unique material to which you’re bound to boogie mightily.
Turns out we will hang on many more occasions. It's not only the sound of his oh-my-god voice (even when speaking!), but the depth of his honest understanding of what makes us all tick that gets your attention. Humility, empathy, and a keen awareness of those around him – these powers have been honed over time and through carefully observing his colleagues, band members, family, and, obviously, the world at large.
You’ll find Adrian Duke's music located somewhere between Professor Longhair, the Doobie Brothers, and, it must be said, approaching the the most rocking soul-powered piano stylings of Sir Elton, which is no small accomplishment.