For Duke, who was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti but reared in Brooklyn, NY, the seed was planted while playing with his siblings as part of a family wind ensemble. He was introduced to the work of Ralph Carmichael and heard a song entitled “He’s Everything to Me.” It was a big band arrangement and sounded nothing like what he and his siblings played. This would be one of those defining moments for Duke. The big band arrangement simply moved his soul like nothing else prior.
In 2000, Duke’s love of Gospel and Jazz propelled him to fuse the two styles and put together a band of elite musicians who had the will and desire to give praise to God through their instruments. It took a few years to gather the musicians, as it had to be a group of musicians who were not just talented, but who could grasp Duke’s vision for a “Spiritually moved Jazz sound.” Duke had an advantage working at Sam Ash Music at the time, where he was privy to some of the best musicians in the industry. In connecting with some of them, he was finally able to start building his roster and bring his dream to fruition. Duke asembled a steady core of high-caliber, seasoned Christian musicians from the New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut areas, and thus The Metropolitan Gospel Big Band was formed. Their sound is influenced by such great artists as Coltrane, Ellington and Basie, while still maintaining their distinctive style and musical integrity.
In conjunction with developing MGBB, Duke also began playing and producing as a solo artist. This has led Duke to perform with some of Gospel music’s greats, including The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Shirley Caesar, Richard Smallwood, The Clark Sisters, and Tye Tribbett. Duke’s superb talent has also granted him performing rights with the names of Brian McKnight and Michael Bolton. It is the product of these unique musical combinations stemming from truly God blessed abilities that create the genius of Duke Guillaume.
A 2005 Urban Gospel Alliance Jazz Artist/Group nominee, Duke and MGBB have taken stage at acclaimed venues like BB Kings in NYC, the Strand Theater in Boston, MA, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center, Swing 46 in NYC, and a number of church stages throughout the tri-state area.
Duke Guillaume and MGBB’S brand of Gospel Jazz/Swing fusion offers uniqueness not heard since the days when legendary gospel guitarist, Rosetta Tharp recorded with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra in the 1930s and 40s. Like the Tharp-Millinder collaboration, which was radical in its day, MGBB has raised some eyebrows. Duke says, “We are dealing with a very delicate subject when you talk about bringing Jazz to the church. Jazz musicians have gotten a bad reputation over the years, especially as it relates to the church. We find it’s best to have jazz arrangements of songs that are recognizable, so that people are able to relate to easily. We hope our spirit flows through our music.” MGBB’S music is “bold and full with a sound determined to reach God’s ears, giving musical praise a whole new dimension.” Psa. 150:6, says, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” MGBB’s sound is unequivocally “raising the praise” as they Swing Unto The Lord A New Sound.