CTI RECORDS: THE COOL REVOLUTION.

CTI RECORDS: THE COOL REVOLUTION. 

In 1967, producer and A&R manager Creed Taylor, decided to form his own record label Creed Taylor Incorporated. Originally, CTi Records was an imprint of Herb Albert and Jerry Moss’ A&M Records. That was the case for the next three years. Then in 1970, Creed Taylor decided to go his own way. 

This was a huge risk. Music was changing, and changing fast. The Beatles had split-up, psychedelia was yesterday’s sound and later in 1970, Jimi Hendrix died. On top of that, new genres, including prog rock were emerging. It seemed nothing was immune from change, including jazz.

Certain genres were no longer as popular. Among them were blues and jazz. The problem was, the new, younger, generation of record buyers couldn’t relate to blues and jazz. They saw both genres as the music their parents or even grandparents listened to. So Creed Taylor’s decision to launch a new jazz label, was perceived as either risky, or foolhardy.

Creed Taylor was a veteran of the music industry. He had worked for numerous record labels, including Bethlehem, ABC, Verve and A&M. 

At ABC, Creed founded one of jazz’s most influential labels, Impulse!  signed John Coltrane in 1960. With one of the legends of jazz onboard, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp would then sign to Verve. Impulse! would go on to release some of the most innovative and influential jazz of the sixties. By then, Creed Taylor had moved on to Verve in 1961.

Now working for Verve Records, Creed Taylor introduced bossa nova to America. Creed signed artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. Their music caught the attention of Charlie Byrd and Dizzy Gillespie. Soon, Verve Records was one of the most successful jazz labels. However, after six years at Verve Records, Creed Taylor was on the move.

He signed to A&M in 1967. That’s where CTi Records was born. Originally, CTi Records was an imprint of A&M. A&M was responsible for distributing CTi Records’ releases. That was the case right through until 1969, when Creed Taylor left A&M. The following year, CTi Records become an independent record company.

With the music industry being at a crossroads, most people saw Creed’s decision to leave A&M as risky. Not Creed. He saw it as a calculated gamble. Fusion was born in the late sixties. Originally, it was a marriage of jazz, funk and rock and psychedelia. However, this would gradually evolve. Gary Burton, Larry Coryell and Miles Davis were among fusion’s founding fathers. He brought onboard Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock.  With some of jazz’s big hitters joining the fusion revolution, Creed Taylor saw that a new genre was about to explode. What better time to launch a new label.

Creed Taylor’s timing was perfect. CTi Records would become one of the most innovative jazz labels of the seventies. It was home to everyone from Stanley Turrentine, Hubert Laws, Freddie Hubard, Chet Baker and Ron Carter. Then in 1971, Creed founded CTi Records’ sister label, Kudo Records. Its roster was equally impressive. Everyone from  George Benson, Grant Green, Grover Washington and Johnny Hammond, to Esther Phillips, Idris Muhammad and Lonnie Smith called Kudo Records home. Year after year, CTi and Kudo Records released some of the most innovative and influential jazz of the seventies. It’s documented on the CTi Records: The Cool Revolution box set, which was recently released by Sony Music.

CTi Records: The Cool Revolution, is a four disc box set featuring thirty-nine tracks. Each disc focuses on an aspect of CTi Records sound. Disc one is entitled Straight Up, and focuses on what’s described as “straight up jazz,” while disc two features “deep grooves and big hits.” Then on disc three, The Brazilian Connection is in the spotlight. Finally, disc four is entitled Cool and Classic, and is the perfect way to round off this four disc retrospective of  CTi Records’ music. It’s a reminder of CTi Records’ vintage years, and is a reminder just how many classic jazz albums Creed Taylor’s label released. That’s apparent from the first track of disc one of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution.

Disc One-Straight Up.

Opening disc one of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution is Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar. This is the title-track to his 1970 album. It epitomises the straight up sound. So does Hubert Laws’ Moment’s Notice, a track from his 1974 album In The Beginning. These two tracks are a reminder of the many delights awaiting discovery in the CTi Records back-catalogue.

This includes Ron Carter’s cover of Miles Davis’ So What. It featured on Ron’s 1975 album Spanish Blues. Stanley Turrentine’s collaborated with Milt Jackson in 1972, on their Cherry album. Cherry was recorded in May 1972, and later in 1972. It’s an oft-overlooked album from CTi Records back-catalogue. That’s not the case with the first album CTi Records released.

The first album Creed Taylor’s new label released was Freddie Hubbard’s 1970 album The Red Clay. One of it’s  highlights was The Intrepid Fox. Two years later, Freddie Hubbard collaborated with another two of CTi Records’ biggest names.

Trombonist Don Sebesky made the move from Verve Records to CTi Records in 1973. His first album Giant Box, featured Freddie Hubbard and Grover Washington Jr. Giant Box was recorded in April 1973, and released that year. It was akin to a record by the CTi All-Stars, with three talented and influential musicians at the peak of their powers. That’s the case throughout disc one, and also disc two of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution.

Disc Two-Deep Grooves and Big Hits.

On disc two of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution, nine of CTi Records’ artists flit between familiar songs and the deepest of grooves. This begins with Freddie Hubbard digging deep, and unleashing The the title-track from his 1970 album Red Clay. After that, some old favourites are given a makeover.

This includes Carole King’s It’s Too Late. It’s given a makeover by Johnny Hammond on his 1971 album Breakout. It was released on Creed Taylor’s new label Kudo. Another signing was Esther Phillips. She features twice. Her first contribution is a cover of Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is. It’s the definitive version of this track, and featured on  Esther’s 1972 album From A Whisper To A Scream. Without doubt, From A Whisper To A Scream was one of Esther Phillips’ finest albums for Kudo. Another is her 1975 album Home Is Where The Hatred Is. One of its highlights was What A Difference A Day Makes, where Esther reinvents the tracks, ensuring it takes on new meaning. That’s the case with many of the “Big Hits” on disc two of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution.

An unlikely cover for George Benson was Grace Slick’s White Rabbit. However, it works well, and provided the title-track to his 1971 album for CTi Records. A year previously, Hubert Laws covered the James Taylor classic  Fire and Rain. It featured on Hubert’s 1970 Afro-Classic album, and is a captivating cover. That’s also the case with Joe Farrell’s cover of Follow Your Heart, which was penned by guitarist John McLaughlin The legendary guitarist then plays a starring role on Follow Your Heart, which featured on the 1970 album The Joe Farrell Quartet. This early slice of fusion was a taste of what was to come. 

The same can be said of CTi Records. In 1970 the label was in its infancy. Little did anyone, let alone Creed Taylor realise, the effect his nascent label would have. To help his label grow, Creed Taylor returned to The Brazilian Connection.

Disc Three-The Brazilian Connection.

At Verve Records, Creed Taylor had brought bossa nova to the attention of jazz fans. Still, Brazilian music was influencing jazz music. So, Creed decided to sign some of his old friends. This in turn, influenced those signed to CTi Records. Their music features on disc three of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution.

Among the Brazilian artists Creed Taylor signed to CTi Records were Antônio Carlos Jobim. He released his Stone Flower album in 1970. Two tracks from Stone Flower features on disc three. There’s the title-track and Brazil. Both are a reminder of a musical pioneer, one who helped popularise the bossa nova sound. So did Astrud Gilberto, who collaborated with Stanley Turrentine on the 1971 album Gilberto With Turrentine. Quite simply, it’s one of the highlights of disc three. Another of the Brazilian artist Creed Taulor brought to CTi Records was pianist Eumir Deodato, who released his Prelude album in 1973. Carly and Carole with its beautiful, laid-back summery vibe is another of disc three’s highlights. That’s despite there being so much more music to explore.

Freddie Hubbard’s First Light has a quite beautiful, but wistful sound. It was the title-track to Freddie’s 1971 album, and showcases the legendary trumpeter. It’s another essential album from the CTi Records’ discography. To that, I would add Stanley Turrentine’s Salt Song. The title-track to this 1971 album shows one of the great tenor saxophonists in full flight. Quite simply, it’s a joy to behold and yet again, reminds the listener of the myriad of delights awaiting discovery in the CTi Records’ vaults. This includes albums that can be described as Cool and Classic.

Disc Four-Cool and Classic.

Cool and Classic, disc four of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution. It features some of the great and good of CTi Record, including Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. They collaborated on the 1975 album Carnegie Hall Concert Volume 1. This albums features their cover of the classic My Funny Valentine. It’s given a makeover by the veteran jazzers. That’s the case with Joni Mitchell’s Song To A Seagull. It’s reworked by Don Sebesky featuring Paul Desmond and features on the 1974 album Giant Box. Never did Joni Mitchell envisage Song To A Seagull would be given a jazzy makeover. It was and it works. That’s the case on all the Cool and Classic tracks.

Miles Davis’ All Blues lent its name to Ron Carter 1974 album. All Blues is one of the album’s highlights, and showcases one of jazz’s great bassists. Similarly, Chet Baker was one of jazz top trumpeters. He covered the Irving Berlin classic What’ll I Do, on his 1972 album, She Was Too Good To Me. It’s flawless version of a familiar classic. 

Another classic is Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. George Benson decided to cover Take Five on his 1974 Bad Benson. This was a brave decision, considering Dave Brubeck’s version is the definitive version. Despite this, George and his band give Take Five an intriguing seventies remake. Still, however, the original is the best. 

Bob James’ career began at CTi Records in 1974.  By 1976, he was about to release his Third album. It featured Westchester Lady, a Bob James’ composition where Bob’s accompanied by an all-star band. Drummer Harvey Mason, guitarist Eddie Gale, saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. and trombonist David Taylor accompany Bob. So, it’s no surprise that Westchester Lady oozes quality.

The final track on disc four of CTi Records: The Cool Revolution, comes courtesy of  Jim Hall. It’s Concierto De Aranjuez, the closing track from Jim’s 1975 album Concierto. It was penned by trombonist Don Sebesky. Here, Jim Hall transforms the track, and ensures that  CTi Records: The Cool Revolution ends on an innovative high.

Innovative is word that’s often used to describe the music CTi Records released.  CTi Records was one of the most important and influential jazz labels of the seventies. It swum against the tide. Jazz music wasn’t as popular during this period. So, CTi Records went looking for jazz music that was relevant and would prove popular. They enjoyed a degree of success, and achieved a reputation as a label who released innovative, inventive and important music. That music has stood the test of time, and four decades later, is just as relevant. 

That’s why a new generation of music lovers are discovering the music released by CTi Records back in the seventies. The music CTi Records released was eclectic. No wonder. Creed Taylor signed a mixture of veteran jazzers and up-and-coming musicians. Some veterans, including Esther Phillips, released some of the best music of her long career. Other veterans, including  Stanley Turrentine and Chet Baker, had their careers rejuvenated. Meanwhile, George Benson began his journey to superstardom. Creed Taylor’s decision to leave A&M was vindicated.

This only worked because Creed Taylor knew what type of music would work in the seventies. Fusion’s popularity was on the rise. This had been apparent since 1967. Latin music had been popular before. Creed had helped popularise the bossa nova. It was ready for a comeback. Antônio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto were at the heart of the revival in the bossa nova’s popularity. Adding a soulful sound to CTi Records was Esther Phillips. Her career enjoyed an Indian Summer. All these different sounds and more can be found on the CTi Records: The Cool Revolution box set, which Sony Music released.

The CTi Records: The Cool Revolution has been a long time coming. However, it’s been well the wait. Let’s hope some of CTi Records classic albums are reissued again. After all, CTi Records is one of the great jazz labels. It deserves to to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other great jazz labels, including Blue Note, Impulse and Verve Records. CTi Records: The Cool Revolution features thirty-nine reasons why.

CTI RECORDS: THE COOL REVOLUTION.

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

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