Without the contributions of producer and entrepreneur Creed Taylor, the past, present and future of jazz would be differently written.
Five decades ago, Creed Taylor produced some of Bethlehem Records' best albums, including sets by Charles Mingus, Kai Winding with J.J. Johnson, and singer Chris Connor. He became known for his meticulous preparation and musicians' ear (Taylor also plays trumpet), and in 1960 formed the Impulse! jazz subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records. The Impulse! label quickly became synonymous with great music, releasing such jazz classics as John Coltrane's landmark A Love Supreme and Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. Then, when Verve Records was sold to MGM, Taylor moved on to serve as head of Verve.
At Verve, Taylor directed nothing less than a worldwide musical revolution, fueling the international wave of "bossa nova" through collaborations with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, and others. "The Girl From Ipanema" won the 1964 Record of the Year Grammy Award and the album from which it came, Getz / Gilberto , won four more Grammys including Best Jazz Album and Album of the Year.
That "Girl" remains a rare almost inexplicable moment of musical magic: Taylor, saxophonist Getz and Brazilian guitarist / vocalist Joao Gilberto romantically dance through a Jobim program, but it was Gilberto's wife Astrud whose unaffected, slightly unsure voice breathed life into "The Girl." It was her first professional performance.
Stop his story there, and Taylor's musical legacy would be secure. But he moved on to team with Jerry Moss and Herb Albert and produce albums for A&M, claiming more Grammys and gold for his work with Wes Montgomery, then in 1968 he became his own boss, forming CTI RecordsCreed Taylor, Inc.
Along with the Les McCann, Eddie Harris, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk albums Joel Dorn was making for Atlantic Records, CTI Records typified the 1970s fusion decade. But while Dorn often seemed intent on making gutbucket soul records, Taylor's explored lush orchestral arrangements of originals, pop and jazz standards, and contemporary pop and rock hits with a fluid jazz roster that included Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Milt Jackson, and Hubert Laws easily trading lead and sideman roles.
Photo Caption: Taylor with emcee Sammy Davis Jr., Monica (Mrs. Stan) Getz (on Creed's left) and vocalist Astrud Gilberto (on Creed's right), accepting the 1964 Record of the Year Grammy Award for "The Girl From Ipanema." The Getz / Gilberto album from which it came was also honored with the Best Engineered Recording (Non-Classical), Best Instrumental Jazz Performance (for Getz), Best Jazz Album, and Album of the Year Grammy Awards. Getz / Gilberto was received into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and the single in 2000. Exclusive, never before published photo courtesy of Creed Taylor. [click photo for larger version]
After a hiatus due to financial circumstances, CTI Records returned in the 1990s. Taylor still has not stopped, releasing Summerflood by Jurgen Friedrich (piano) and Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn) in 2003 to critical acclaim. Taylor is also raising his internet profile through an active role in www.ctirecords.com. "We need all the support we can possibly get compiling links to our internet presence because the competition is just so heavy," he explains. "I'd like certainly to be very clear about the fact that this is the means of distribution of the jazz that I'm involved with now." Half a century from his Bethlehem days, forty years after striking artistic and commercial gold with "The Girl From Ipanema," Taylor continues with his body of work. His story and jazz his-tory seem forever intertwined.
Part 3: 2004 State of the Union
AAJ: What inspires you to get up every morning and stay involved with this most unforgiving business?
CT: The music. And my family. I have a fourteen year old daughter who is taking trumpet lessons and she's a whiz. I don't know if you know the instrument, but she can pop off an E above high C and she's got a really nice big sound. She had to play a wind instrument, so I encouraged her to play the trumpet. She's taken piano for about five years now, too.
AAJ: Is there a singer or any other artist that you wish you would have worked with? You brought up Herb Alpert: Your style with his sound would have been romantic and upbeat and beautiful.
CT: I'd go along with that.
AAJ: I'm a big Tony Bennett fan but I don't know that his voice would have worked for you.
CT: Yeah, he would have, in fact we almost had a project with Gerry Mulligan. Gerry brought in Tony to sing on two songs on one of his 'Trane albums. Gerry was a real model 'Trane fan. So was I, and by the way so was Oliver Nelson.
Tony Bennett. Rosemary Clooney, she just knocked me out. I almost got Billie Holiday. It was just when she was kind of on her last three of four months alive. She came by my office in the ABC-Paramount building and we talked at length. When I walked her out to the elevator, I thought that we would be in the studio. Then she got sick and she passed away shortly after that.
There is a guy I really enjoyed producing: Jack Teagarden.