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CTI Celebrates Kudu Legacy: Lonnie Smith, Johnny Hammond, Hank Crawford, Esther Phillips

CTI Celebrates Kudu Legacy:  Lonnie Smith, Johnny Hammond, Hank Crawford, Esther Phillips
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CTI Masterworks' 40th anniversary reissue program has, until now, focused on producer Creed Taylor
Creed Taylor
Creed Taylor
b.1929
producer
's primary label. Two multi-disc sets and 24 single discs have made available on CD cherished CTI LPs by artists such as trumpeters Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
and Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, saxophonists Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
1924 - 1977
sax, alto
and Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
1934 - 2000
sax, tenor
, guitarists George Benson
George Benson
George Benson
b.1943
guitar
and Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
b.1931
guitar
, vibraphonist Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
1923 - 1999
vibraphone
and pianist Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston
b.1926
piano
(the little known 1972 masterpiece Blue Moses). Classy affairs all, on which, typically, Taylor blended strong material, top drawer (if, mostly, abbreviated) soloists, solid backbeats and lush orchestral backings.

The final batch of reissues—four discs originally released between 1971 and 1974—turns the spotlight instead on CTI's funkier imprint, Kudu. Here, while Taylor remained the producer (and Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
b.1924
producer
the engineer), the aesthetic was more streetwise than CTI itself—even though Taylor and, on some albums, arranger Bob James
Bob James
Bob James
b.1939
piano
, continued to stir in their trademark sweeteners. With Kudu, Taylor struck a fine balance between soul jazz and raw, jazz-inflected funk on the one hand, and sophisticated orchestral arrangements, often including string charts, on the other.

The 40th anniversary's four featured Kudu artists are organists Lonnie Smith (pictured above, more recently) and Johnny Hammond, alto saxophonist Hank Crawford
Hank Crawford
Hank Crawford
1934 - 2009
sax, alto
and singer Esther Phillips
Esther Phillips
Esther Phillips
1935 - 1984
vocalist
. Four decades on, their discs still have legs.

Lonnie Smith

Mama Wailer

CTI Masterworks

2011 (1971)

The only disc in the batch not featuring a string ensemble, Mama Wailer has Lonnie Smith stretching out over two originals and two covers (Sly Stone's "Stand" and Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move"). He takes in Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
1925 - 2005
organ, Hammond B3
's founding legacy on the Hammond B-3 and mixes it up with boogaloo (on the opener, "Mama Wailer"), and contemporary funk and psychedelia (on the adventurous 17:20 minute workout, "Stand"), as well as some hard bop.

To make an analogy with a movie of the same year, Mama Wailer is the sort of music the producers could have used in The French Connection, in that early scene where Gene Hackman conducts a drugs shakedown in an uptown bar. Funky as a donkey's tail, but unmistakably urban.

There are cooking solos from Smith—mostly on organ but on funkified clavinet on the title track—and tenor saxophonists Marvin Cabell and Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
1943 - 1999
saxophone
Three guitarists—George Davis, Robert Lowery and Jimmy Ponder
Jimmy Ponder
Jimmy Ponder
1946 - 2013
guitar
—chop and fill over the ostinatos provided by bassists Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
and Chuck Rainey
Chuck Rainey
Chuck Rainey
b.1940
bass, electric
, and drummer Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
. "Mama Wailer" shows where Lonnie Smith got his Doctor (of groove) moniker from, but the acid-drenched "Stand" is the most intriguing track.

Johnny Hammond

Wild Horses Rock Steady

CTI Masterworks

2011 (1972)

Before Kudu, Johnny Hammond had—as Johnny "Hammond" Smith—been associated for two decades with hard bop and soul jazz on the no-sweeteners Prestige label. Wild Horses Rock Steady was the second of four more elaborately conceived albums he made for Kudu.

To continue the The French Connection analogy, this is the sound you could have heard in the movie's other signature bar, the glitzier one in which Hackman first spots the conspirators in the heroin importation scam. The album, comprising six covers, is down the line soul jazz laced with some of Bob James' funkier horn and string arrangements. Hammond does not venture as far out as Lonnie Smith on the aforementioned "Stand," but he maintains an immaculate groove.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
's "Rock Steady" opens the disc, with fierce solos from Hammond, tenor saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. and guitarist Eric Gale
Eric Gale
Eric Gale
1938 - 1994
guitar, electric
, and a crawling, moody string arrangement. Two other standouts are the Broadway show tunes "Who Is Sylvia?" (from 1971's Two Gentleman Of Verona) and "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (from Jesus Christ Superstar, also from 1971). Both are well-crafted songs, and the tension between Hammond's funk and the sweeping strings counterpoints is a delight. "I Don't Know How To Love Him" includes a bitching solo from Gale—slashing, staccato blues-funk.

The album closes with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' "Wild Horses," with Hammond's strongest solo on the disc and a solid one from either Washington or Harold Vick
Harold Vick
Harold Vick
b.1936
on tenor. Throughout, Ron Carter is back on bass, as is Billy Cobham on drums (replaced, on "Rock Steady," by Bernard Purdie
Bernard Purdie
Bernard Purdie
b.1939
drums
).

Like Smith's Mama Wailer, an album begging to be kicked back with, but this time on satin sheets.

Hank Crawford

Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing

CTI Masterworks

2011 (1974)

After high-profile work with singer and keyboardist Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
' bands in the late 1950s and early '60s on alto and baritone saxophones, in 1971 Hank Crawford came to Kudu, where he focused on alto and stayed long enough to make seven albums; Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing was the fourth.

The music inhabits similar terrain to Hammond's Wild Horses Rock Steady, with the scales tipped further towards Bob James' orchestral arrangements, which again feature strings. There are three originals and two Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
covers (the title track and "All In Love Is Fair"). Aside from the wistful "Jana" (Swahili for yesterday), the pace is fast and Crawford's vocalized, bluesy alto the center of attention.

The blinder in a consistently enjoyable set is the penultimate track, "Sho Is Funky," which clocks in at just under 13 minutes. There is a pronounced New Orleans feel to the arrangement—in its rhythm patterns, Hugh McCracken's insistent, scratching guitar, and the sound of horn section, in which bass trombonist Dave Taylor does the tuba duties. Bob James gets convincingly down home on electric piano and Crawford soars. A brief closer, "Groove Junction," allows James and Crawford to foreground their more straight-ahead chops.

Esther Phillips

Performance

CTI Masterworks

2011 (1974)

Born in 1935, "Little" Esther Phillips hit soul single pay dirt aged 15, and the hits kept coming through the early 1960s. But sometime in the mid '50s, Phillips picked up a heroin habit, and addiction blighted her career until her death. She continued to record though, and Performance was the fourth of eight albums she made for Kudu between 1972 and 1976.

Unusually for a Kudu or CTI album, Taylor here shared production duties, with Pee Wee Ellis
Pee Wee Ellis
Pee Wee Ellis
b.1941
saxophone
on six tracks and Eugene McDaniels on two. Unlike its stable mates, Performance is also an unabashed blues and soul album, despite the presence of jazz-oriented soloists such as tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
(who lays down an early marker on "Disposable Society") and trumpeter Jon Faddis
Jon Faddis
Jon Faddis
b.1953
trumpet
.

The pace ranges from slow to medium fast, and most of the eight tracks (Jerry Jeff Walker's closing "Mr Bojangles" was not included on the original LP) are about love—or if not love, then at least sex. Composers include Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint
b.1938
piano
("Performance"), Clarence Carter ("Doing Our Thing"), Mac Rebennack ("Such A Night") and Isaac Hayes and David Porter ("Can't Trust Your Neighbor With Your Baby").

Edgier than much of Phillips' work for Kudu, Performance finds the singer convincingly on song, her lived-in voice spanning intimate, growling Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt
1927 - 2008
vocalist
like moments and, more often, expansive, wailing soul, all framed by superb orchestral arrangements and a hardcore rhythm section anchored by drummers Bernard Purdie and Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
.

Tracks and Personnel

Mama Wailer

Tracks: Mama Wailer; Holy Muneca; I Feel The Earth Move; Stand.

Personnel: Lonnie Smith: clavinet (1), organ; Marvin Cabell: tenor saxophone; Dave Hubbard: tenor saxophone; Grover Washington Jr: tenor saxophone, flute; Danny Moore: trumpet, flugelhorn; George Davis: guitar; Robert Lowe: guitar (1); Jimmy Ponder: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Chuck Rainey: bass (3); Billy Cobham: drums; William King: percussion; Airto Moreira: percussion; Richard Pratt: percussion.

Wild Horses Rock Steady

Tracks: Rock Steady: Who Is Sylvia?; Peace Train; I Don't Know How To Love Him; It's Impossible; Wild Horses.

Personnel: Johnny Hammond: organ, electric piano; Harold Vick: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Grover Washington Jr: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Al DeRisi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Snooky Young: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Andre: trombone; George Benson: guitar; Eric Gale: guitar; Bob Mann: guitar; Melvin Sparks: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Billy Cobham: drums; Bernard Purdie: drums (1); Omar Clay: percussion; Airto Moreira: percussion; Julius Brand: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Emanuel Green: violin; Julius Held: violin; Harry Katzman: violin; Joe Malin: violin; Gene Orloff: violin; Max Pollikoff: violin.

Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing

Tracks: Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing; Jana; All In Love Is Fair; Sho Is Funky; Groove Junction.

Personnel: Hank Crawford: alto saxophone; Phil Bodner: alto flute, piccolo, tenor saxophone; Joe Farrell: flute, tenor saxophone; Jerry Dodgion: flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alan Rubin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Taylor: bass trombone; Bob James: electric piano, clavinet, Arp; Richard Tee: piano, organ; Hugh McCracken: guitar, harmonica (4); Ron Carter: bass (5); Gary King: bass; Idris Muammad: drums (2, 4, 5); Bernard Purdie: drums (1, 3); Ralph McDonald: percussion, conga; Alexander Cores: violin; Lewis Eley: violin; Max Ellen: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Emmanuel Green: violin; Charles Libove: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; David Nadien: violin; Matthew Raimondi: violin; Al Brown: viola; Manny Vardi: viola; Charles McCracken: cello; George Ricci: cello.

Performance

Tracks: I Feel The Same; Performance; Doing Our Thing; Disposable Society; Living Alone (We're Going To Make It); Such A Night; Can't Trust Your Neighbor With Your Baby; Mr Bojangles.

Personnel: Esther Phillips: vocal; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Mike Brecker: tenor saxophone; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Gatchell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Urbie Green: trombone; Hubert Laws: flute; Bob James: electric piano (4), piano (5); Richard Tee: piano (3, 7), organ (5), tack piano (6); Richard Wyands: piano; Charlie Brown: guitar; Richie Resnicoff: guitar (4, 5); Jon Sholle: guitar (1, 7); Eric Weissberg: steel guitar (2); Gary King: bass; Gordon Edwards: bass (3); Bernard Purdie: drums; Steve Gadd: drums (4, 5); Ralph McDonald: percussion; Pee Wee Ellis: chimes; Patti Austin: background vocals (2, 6); Lani Groves: background vocals (2, 6); J. Denise Williams: background vocals (2, 6); Carl Caldwell: background vocals (3, 5); Robin Clark: background vocals (3, 5); Tasha Thomas: background vocals (3, 5); Max Ellen: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Emmanuel Green: violin; Charles Libove: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; David Nadien: violin; Matthew Raimondi: violin; Manny Vardi: violin, viola; Al Brown: viola; Harold Coletta: viola; Charles McCracken: cello; George Ricci: cello.

Photo Credit

Courtesy Doctor Lonnie Smith

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