Tuesday, August 9 brought the most recent quartet of CTI jazz titles to CD from Sony’s Masterworks Jazz division. For the next batch, due October 4, the label has turned its attention to CTI’s offshoot label, Kudu. Named after the long-horned African mammal, Kudu was launched by CTI’s Creed Taylor in 1971. Taylor described his new endeavor as “a black awareness label, more commercial oriented than CTI and indigenous to the black popular music of the United States.” Even the logo’s familiar Afro-centric colors would be a calling card to Kudu’s mission. If the Kudu albums were designed in a much less lavish fashion than their CTI counterparts, the music within the grooves could be just as incendiary.
Four Kudu titles are arriving in new, remastered editions housed in soft-pack digipaks: Lonnie Smith’s Mama Wailer; Esther Phillips’ Performance; Hank Crawford’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing; and Johnny Hammond’s Wild Horses/Rock Steady. While the other titles have been available as expensive imports, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing is making its first appearance on CD. Although Sony no longer controls the Kudu catalogue of Grover Washington, Jr. (which was sold by Taylor to Motown as part of the deal to dissolve Kudu’s distribution deal with the Motor City giant), these four titles prove without a doubt that Kudu had much to offer.
Lonnie Smith’s 1971 Mama Wailer was only the second Kudu release, after Johnny Hammond’s Breakout. Smith, on organ, clavinet and vocals, contributed two original songs alongside two well-selected contemporary pop covers: Sly and the Family Stone’s powerfully-charged “Stand!” (stretched to a monumental 17+ minutes!) and Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.” CTI family members like Ron Carter and Airto Moreira contributed to the album, as did Kudu labelmate Grover Washington, Jr., whose Inner City Blues would follow as Kudu’s third release.
Continuing chronologically, Hammond’s Wild Horses/Rock Steady was originally issued in 1972 as the fourth Kudu album. Electric pianist/organist Hammond, who had covered Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and the Jackson 5’s Clifton Davis-penned “Never Can Say Goodbye” on his debut Breakout, continued to demonstrate his good taste in cover material. On Wild Horses/Rock Steady, he tackles not only those Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin songs, respectively, but Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and two songs from rock musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, and Galt MacDermot and John Guare’s “Who is Sylvia?” from Two Gentlemen of Verona. Bob James arranged and conducted the album’s orchestration, while Washington, Moreira, Carter and George Benson all guested. This album epitomizes producer Creed Taylor’s crossover style, with equal appeal to jazz fans and rock/pop fans alike. After the jump we’ll fill you in on what’s coming from Esther Phillips and Hank Crawford, as well as full track listings for all four titles!
The series then jumps ahead to 1974 for the former Little Esther Phillips’ album Performance. Esther Phillips was a titanic vocalist who channeled her offstage demons into anguished, powerful, and dramatic music. Pee Wee Ellis was the arranger and conductor for Phillips, and Performance includes her dynamic and altogether distinct renditions of Allen Toussaint’s “Performance,” Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor with Your Baby,” Dr. John’s “Such a Night” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s modern standard “Mr. Bojangles.”
Hank Crawford’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing was the very next Kudu release following Performance. It’s a five-song affair, kicking off with the title song and another also by Stevie Wonder, “All in Love is Fair.” Alto saxophonist Crawford wrote the album’s remaining three songs himself, one in collaboration with arranger and conductor Bob James. Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Randy Brecker and Hugh McCracken all appear on the set.
CTI Masterworks releases these four classic titles on October 4. Pre-order links and track listings with discographical annotation follow!
Lonnie Smith, Mama Wailer (Kudu KU-02, 1971 – reissued Masterworks Jazz, 2011)
- Mama Wailer
- Hola Muncea
- I Feel the Earth Move
Johnny Hammond, Wild Horses/Rock Steady (Kudu KU-04, 1972 – reissued Masterworks Jazz, 2011)
- Who is Sylvia?
- Peace Train
- I Don’t Know How to Love Him
- It’s Impossible
- Wild Horses
- Rock Steady
Esther Phillips, Performance (Kudu KU-18, 1974 – reissued Masterworks Jazz, 2011)
- I Feel the Same
- Doing Our Thing
- Can’t Trust Your Neighbor with Your Baby
- Such a Night
- Disposable Society
- Living Alone (We’re Gonna Make It)
- Mr. Bojangles
Hank Crawford, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing (Kudu KU-19, 1974 – reissued Masterworks Jazz, 2011)
- Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
- All in Love is Fair
- Sho is Funky
- Groove Junction