Earlier this year, Universal and Hip-o Select released a bold orange box set containing the first 6 LPs on the Impulse! label, all of which were produced by Creed Taylor. The ambitious producer didn’t stay long at Impulse!, however, departing for the greener pastures of Verve, then A&M, where he founded his CTI label. Following a highly successful series of CTI albums under the A&M imprimatur, Taylor’s mini-kingdom went the independent route and along the way practically defined the sound of seventies jazz. Sony’s Masterworks Jazz label quietly dropped four more CTI titles in stores on June 14, part of the 40th Anniversary Series that began with the release of the Cool Revolution retrospective box. (We’ve got details on April’s batch here.) The titles were released between 1970 and 1974, and all four feature bona fide legends who were integral parts of the CTI family: George Benson (guitar), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet/flugelhorn), Hubert Laws (flute) and Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone).
The earliest title in the group, Hubbard’s Straight Life (1970), was his second album for CTI following Red Clay, already released in this series. Straight Life could be considered a “sequel” to Red Clay, as many of the same personnel returned, including saxophonist Joe Henderson, keyboard player Herbie Hancock and CTI stalwart Ron Carter. George Benson, naturally on guitar, joined in as well. On percussion, Richard “Pablo” (Richie) Landrum contributed, while Jack DeJohnette replaced Red Clay‘s Lenny White on drums. Straight Life consists of three lengthy tracks: the 17 minute jam on the title song by Hubbard, “Mr. Clean” by Weldon Irvine (who plays tambourine on the album) and the Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen standard “Here’s That Rainy Day.” With only Hubbard, Benson and Carter playing, “Rainy Day” is as beautiful as “Straight Life” is funky.
Benson’s own album, Body Talk, is also released in this wave. His third for the independent CTI, it’s all-instrumental. Rather than “house arranger” Don Sebesky, it’s Pee Wee Ellis who arranged and conducted Body Talk, a duty he also performed on CTI albums for Esther Phillips, Johnny Hammond and Hank Crawford. The only cover in this set of blazing originals is “When Love Has Grown” from Donny Hathaway and Gene McDaniels’ pen. Ron Carter, of course, played bass, as did Gary Kng, and Earl Klugh joined to contribute second guitar. As on previous reissues, this remastered Body Talk contains one bonus, an alternate take of the title track.
Hit the jump to meet Mister T. and go back to the Beginning. We’ve also got track listings, order links and discographical info for all four titles!
Just three catalogue numbers prior to Body Talk in the CTI catalogue is Stanley Turrentine’s Don’t Mess with Mister T. The album takes its title from Marvin Gaye’s song off his Trouble Man soundtrack, and turned out to be Turrentine’s final CTI record. Bob James arranged and also is heard on electric piano. CTI releases were often at the crossroads of jazz and popular music, and one component of popular music, of course, is soul. Turrentine mastered the soul/jazz connection beautifully with this album and Gaye’s remarkable melody. “Two for T” and “Too Blue” were Turrentine’s own songs, and “I Could Never Repay Your Love” is a Philly soul ballad by Bruce Hawes (“Mighty Love,” “Sadie”) from the Spinners’ Atlantic Records debut. Four bonus tracks appear for the first time on a U.S. release. These include Michel Legrand’s “Pieces of Dreams” (re-recorded by Turrentine for his Fantasy Records debut where it became a smash hit), an alternate of the title track, Billy Cobham’s “Mississippi City Strut” and Bob James’ “Harlem Dawn.”
The fourth release, Hubert Laws’ In the Beginning, dates from 1974. Flautist Laws’ sixth album under the CTI banner, it was also one of the company’s few double-LP sets (though it fits comfortably on one CD). This unusual album veers between classical-inspired pieces, straight-ahead jazz and modern funk. Bob James and Ron Carter appear performing their usual duties, joined by Gene Bertoncini on guitar, Steve Gadd on drums, Dave Friedman on vibes and Airto Moreira on percussion. There is minimal orchestration; James arranged “Gymnopedie No. 1” and Clare Fischer wrote the chart for his own title track. In the Beginning was later split up into two separate LPs, but it’s presented in full on the new reissue. No bonus material has been added.
All four of these titles are presented in “soft-pack” digipaks with no new liner notes. They are in stores now from CTI and Masterworks Jazz. Order links can be found below along with the track listings and discographical information!
George Benson, Body Talk (CTI 6033, 1973 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 88812-2, 2011)
- When Love Has Grown
- Body Talk
- Top of the World
- Body Talk (Alternate Take) (from CBS CD ZK 45222)
Freddie Hubbard, Straight Life (CTI 6007, 1970 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 88832-2, 2011)
- Straight Life
- Mr. Clean
- Here’s That Rainy Day
Hubert Laws, In the Beginning (CTI CTX3+3, 1973 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 88840-2, 2011)
- In the Beginning
- Gymnopedie # 1
- Come Ye Disconsolate
- Moment’s Notice
- Mean Lene
Stanley Turrentine, Don’t Mess with Mister T. (CTI 6030, 1973 – reissued Masterworks Jazz 88697 88843-2, 2011)
- Don’t Mess with Mister T.
- Two for T.
- Too Blue
- I Could Never Repay Your Love
- Pieces of Dreams
- Don’t Mess with Mister T. (Alternate Take) (from Epic/Legacy CD 5127922, 2003)
- Mississippi City Strut (from Epic/Legacy CD 5127922, 2003)
- Harlem Dawn (from Epic/Legacy CD 5127922, 2003)