The Sound panel displays the slices of the selected phrase and lets you use bar graphs and buttons to adjust each slice''s tuning, volume, attack, time-stretch, and reverse playback.
George Duke Soul Treasures ($119, download or DVD) delivers more than 500 phrases played by George Duke, each sliced and mapped as an individual sampler instrument for Kontakt 4 and Kontakt 4 Player. When you consider that George Duke (something of a soul treasure himself) has recorded and toured with musicians as diverse as Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Jean Luc Ponty, and Stanley Clarke, you know you''re in for some extraordinarily played, genre-bending material.
Further attesting to its authenticity, the project was recorded in Duke''s studio on classic keyboards: an early Rhodes (pre-Fender) and two vintage Wurlitzers for electric pianos, a Hohner Clavinet modified with a Whammy Bar, and a Bösendorfer grand piano. But, fine as they are, you have to ask yourself what you can do, besides listen, with a collection of keyboard phrases by someone as recognizable as Duke. Quite a bit as it turns out—these instruments are made to be played.
HOW IT WORKS
Each Kontakt instrument starts with a 2- or 4-bar phrase, and the raw material is also provided as WAV files, which makes it easy to browse the library without having to load each Kontakt instrument. A front-panel switch lets you choose between two versions: unprocessed or run through a chain of outboard analog gear ending in a tube limiter and recorded on Ampex tape. You also get controls for a multimode filter and a convolution reverb.
The phrases were sliced in Kontakt''s Wave editor, and Kontakt scripting maps the slices to MIDI notes C3 (middle C) and up. A large waveform graphic in the control panel displays the slices and reflects the playback position. It turns out that''s not just eye candy; the visual feedback is enormously useful when you start manipulating the slices to create different phrases, and you can modify individual slice tuning, volume, attack, time-stretch, and reverse playback directly in the graphic. (The details are beyond the scope of this review, but you can add, delete, and move slices in Kontakt''s Wave editor and have those changes reflected in the control panel.)
On a second panel, you can toggle three triggering options. The Choke toggle limits you to one slice at a time; you''ll almost always want this. The Loop toggle causes successive slices to play as long as the key is held; hold long enough, and the phrase will loop. The One-Shot toggle causes any triggered slice to play to its end, even if you release the key.
The two octaves below middle C are used as keyswitches. C2 through B2 pitch shift the phrase in semitones, with F2 selecting to the original pitch of the phrase (not necessarily F). C1 through B1 activate effects processors (phase, chorus, flange, rotation, cabinet, and some pairs of those). A Latch button for each set of keyswitches causes the selected pitch change or effect to remain active after you release the key.
The instruments can use either Kontakt''s Sampler or Time Machine 2 playback engine, as determined by the control panel''s Time Stretch button. In either mode, automatic slice changes follow the tempo (just like having the slices triggered by MIDI files), but individual slice playback is time-stretched only in Time Machine 2 mode. The Playback mode also affects pitch shifting. You need to turn Time Stretch on if you don''t want pitch shifting (using the keyswitches) to change the slice length. Time Stretch mode (the default) can introduce artifacts, however—the extent depending on the phrase. I found a pitch range of a minor third and tempo variations within 15 percent to be fairly reliable. With Time Stretch off, you can compensate for upward pitch shifts with tempo increases and vice versa.
Electric and acoustic piano dominate this collection; you''ll find 203 Rhodes, 100 Wurlitzer, and 170 acoustic piano phrases. Thirty clavinet phrases round it out, and they''re the funkiest part of the library so it''s too bad there aren''t more of them.
The Kontakt instruments are organized by keyboard and tempo, and named by tempo, which ranges from 65bpm to 140bpm. Tempos in the 70s to 90s are predominant. Other than the tempo, the names are whimsical—there''s no key information, but most of the phrases are easy to decipher.
I''ve been listening to Duke for a long time, and a huge number of my favorite hooks are in here—this is truly a comprehensive effort. The slicing is excellent, so once you have a rhythm track, it''s fairly easy to play (or sequence) variations of the phrases against that rhythm. Add a few slice variations and keyswitched effects, and you''re well on your way to some George Duke-flavored riffs of your own (see Web Clips 1, 2, and 3).
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 5
George Duke Soul Treasures Product Page