Chances are, if you think of a jazz artist, it wouldn’t take many degrees of separation to reach Creed Taylor. The esteemed producer began his career at Bethlehem Records overseeing a roster including Herbie Mann, Charles Mingus, Carmen McRae, J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding. In 1956, he departed Bethlehem for ABC-Paramount, where in 1960 he launched the Impulse! label with artists like Johnson, Winding, Ray Charles and John Coltrane. It was at Impulse! that Taylor came into his own, emphasizing that jazz and popular music could indeed co-exist and overlap, and seeing that LP packaging met the high standards of the music within. Taylor didn’t remain at Impulse! long, however. In 1961, he signed with Verve and championed Antonio Carlos Jobim and the bossa nova’s rise in America. By 1967, Taylor was already a legend in the field when he formed CTI Records, first as a label of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ A&M Records, and then as an independent beginning in 1970. CTI went on to define the sound of jazz in the 1970s, and even its look, insisting on lavish gatefold LP covers that stood out from the rest, often adorned with striking photographs, many by Pete Turner. Don Sebesky, who has gone on to a successful second career as a theatrical orchestrator, was the “house arranger,” giving many of the label’s releases a unified musical signature. And while some purists gave Taylor flack for his “crossover” fusion records and pop covers, CTI’s repertoire has stood the test of time.
Late last year, Sony’s Masterworks Jazz Division released the acclaimed four-CD box set CTI Records: The Cool Revolution (88697 76821-2, 2010) documenting CTI’s prime period between 1970 and 1975. On April 19, Universal dips back even further for First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary box set as reported by Mike earlier this week. One week earlier, however, Masterworks continues its CTI campaign with four more titles, all remastered for CD from the original analog 2-track ¼-inch tapes for the first time. This brings the total number of individual album reissues in this series up to a healthy seventeen…and hopefully more are to come! Hit the jump for full details on this latest batch, featuring albums by George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Don Sebesky and Stanley Turrentine!
Creed Taylor brought George Benson to CTI with him from A&M, and Beyond the Blue Horizon was the guitarist’s first release on the new label. He tipped his hat to Miles Davis, with whom he had recorded in the 1960s, on a cover of Davis’ “So What,” and tackled a bossa nova in the form of Luis Bonfa’s “The Gentle Rain.” The rest of Beyond the Blue Horizon consists of Benson originals, alternately lyrical and edgy. For the album he was joined by Clarence Palmer (organ), Ron Carter (double bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). He followed Blue Horizon with an even more acclaimed album White Rabbit, released earlier this year in the CTI series. Three bonus tracks, all alternate takes, have been appended to the original track lineup.
Freddie Hubbard’s First Light was his third album for CTI, but arguably the first masterpiece for the ace trumpeter and composer. Herbie Hancock played Rhodes, Benson contributed guitar, Carter handled bass and DeJohnette sat behind the drum kit for First Light, while Hubbard collaborated with arranger Sebesky for the first time. The result was a gorgeous collection anchored by a Hubbard original, the title track, as well as versions of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moment to Moment” and Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “Lonely Town” from the musical On the Town. This was not your average jazz fare, and the result was thrilling. According to the official CTI Masterworks track listing, it appears that one bonus track, “Fantasy in D,” will be included, while the alternate version of “First Light” that had appeared on Legacy’s previous reissue has been dropped.
Tenor saxophone legend Stanley Turrentine’s Salt Song was his second album for CTI. He was joined by CTI “family member” Eumir Deodato on keyboards and covered Freddie Hubbard’s “Gibraltar” as the opening track. Airto Moreira contributed on percussion while Eric Gale played both lead and rhythm guitar. There’s a Brazilian influence on tracks like Milton Nascimiento’s “Salt Song,” but Turrentine also dips into the American pop songbook for Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance’s “I Haven’t Anything Better to Do” and even gospel for “I Told Jesus.” One bonus track of Nascimiento’s “Vera Cruz” will be included, as it was on a past reissue.
The fourth and final reissue may be Taylor’s most ambitious record for CTI. He conceived of a massive two-disc set bringing together all of the stars of CTI’s roster, with Don Sebesky’s name above the title for the first time as arranger and conductor. Participants on 1974’s Giant Box included Benson, Hubbard, Carter, DeJohnette, Randy Brecker, Paul Desmond (composer of “Take Five”), Milt Jackson (of The Modern Jazz Quartet), Grover Washington Jr., and others. Of course, there were Sebesky’s orchestral arrangements to unify the material, and there were pop song covers, too, of Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull” and Jimmy Webb’s “Psalm 150.” While Giant Box won’t arrive in the, well, giant box it originally did, the music (now able to fit on one CD) remains mighty.
All four remastered titles are due in stores on April 12, and are presented in soft-pack digipaks replicating the original gatefold covers. There is no mention of new liner notes. Pre-order links as well as discographical info can be found below!
George Benson, Beyond the Blue Horizon (CTI 6009/ZK-40810, 1971 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 86738-2, 2011)
- So What
- The Gentle Rain
- All Clear
- Ode to a Kudu
- Somewhere in the East
- All Clear (Bonus Track) (Alternate Take)
- Ode to a Kudu (Bonus Track) (Alternate Take)
- Somewhere in the East (Bonus Track) (Alternate Take)
Tracks 6-8 first appeared on CTI/Legacy CD 65130, 1997
Freddie Hubbard, First Light (CTI 6013/ZK-40687, 1971 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 86729-2, 2011)
- First Light
- Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
- Moment to Moment
- Yesterday’s Dreams
- Lonely Town
- Fantasy in D (Bonus Track) (from Polar AC, CTI LP 6056, 1975)
Stanley Turrentine, Salt Song (CTI 6010/ZK-65126, 1971 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 86737-2, 2011)
- I Told Jesus
- Salt Song
- I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do
- Vera Cruz (Bonus Track) (from CTI/Legacy CD 65126, 1997)
Don Sebesky, Giant Box (CTI CTX 6031/32, ZK-40697, 1974 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 86743-2, 2011)
- Firebirds/Birds of Fire
- Song to a Seagull
- Free as a Bird
- Psalm 150