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Cornell Dupree

Cornell Luther Dupree, b. December 19, 1942 in Fort Worth, TX, d. May 8, 2011 in Fort Worth, TX. A self-taught guitarist, Dupree became a professional musician in his home town while still in his mid-teens. Soon thereafter, he joined King Curtis' band in New York City where he worked with Jimi Hendrix. Dupree developed a solid reputation as a gifted R&B player, appearing in the backing groups of numerous artists for concerts and recording sessions. These have included Billy Cobham, Gene 'Mighty Flea' Connors, Carla Bley, Aretha Franklin (with whom he toured 1967-76), Grant Green, Elvin Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann (in the 70s and again in the 90s), Richard Twardzik, saxophonist Steen Vig, the funk band Stuff, Grover Washington Jnr., bluesman Champion Jack Dupree (unrelated), and Steve Gadd's band, the Gadd Gang, in the late 80s. Dupree's own name recording sessions have seen him in company with David 'Fathead' Newman and Ellis Marsalis (both appearing on 1988's Grammy nominated Coast To Coast), Hank Crawford (having recording under the saxophonist's leadership in 1986 and again in 1998), Jimmy Smith (on 1978's Shadow Dancing), Bobby Watson, Terell Stafford, and Ronnie Cuber. Although best known for his rousing R&B work and his soulful backing, Dupree's range is considerably wider than this might suggest. On the 1994 session that produced Bop 'N' Blues, he does exactly what the title suggests and digs into a bop mode with considerable aplomb. In 2009, Dupree appeared in a documentary entitled Still Bill, which chronicled the life and times of Bill Withers. He appeared on stage playing a guitar-led version of Grandma's Hands. Bill Withers, at first, was sitting in the audience, but ended up joining him on stage to sing the lyrics to the song. In this part of the documentary, Dupree played his guitar on a stool, breathing using an oxygen machine, which foretold his suffering from emphysema. Dupree died on May 8, 2011 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He had been waiting for a lung transplant as a result of suffering from emphysema.


by Steve Huey
A veteran of over 2,500 recording sessions, guitarist Cornell Dupree worked most prolifically in R&B and blues, but he was equally at home in jazz, particularly funky fusion and soul-jazz. Dupree was born in Fort Worth, TX, in 1942, and by the age of 20 was playing in King Curtis' R&B group. He became a session musician soon after, playing on Brook Benton's "Rainy Night in Georgia," as well as records by stars like Lou Rawls, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Roberta Flack, Joe Cocker, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, and countless others. Dupree was also a member of Aretha Franklin's touring band from 1967-1976, and during that time also became a presence on many jazz-funk recordings, the sort that would find favor with rare groove and acid jazz fans in the years to come. Dupree's first jazz session as a leader was 1974's Teasin', which was followed by Saturday Night Fever in 1977, and Shadow Dancing in 1978. During the same period, Dupree was a member of the studio-musician fusion supergroup Stuff, which signed with Warner Bros. in 1975 and recorded four albums. They also reunited periodically in the '80s and spawned a mid-'80s spin-off group called the Gadd Gang, which Dupree also belonged to. Some of Dupree's most rewarding jazz albums came in the late '80s and early '90s; 1988's Coast to Coast was nominated for a Grammy, and funky sessions like 1991's Can't Get Through, 1992's live Uncle Funky, and 1993's Child's Play received positive reviews. 1994's Bop 'n' Blues was his most straight-ahead jazz album, also ranking as one of his best.