Various Artists: CTI Records - The Cool Revolution
CTI RecordsThe Cool Revolution
The late 1960s was, in many ways, a time of reckoning for jazz. While the music had continued to evolve over the previous half century, it was coincident with the emergence of rock music as a serious force that jazz began to evolve in bigger leaps and bounds, and polarize to greater extremesfrom the far left-of-center free jazz to the accessible sound of soul jazzand, increasingly, the incorporation of the elements, energy and volume of the emergent pop scene. Change was in the air, and jazz began, in some ways, to distance itself from popular culture; there are even those, like organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who believe that seminal innovators like John Coltrane were responsible for the death of jazz in the clubs, as the saxophone giant's increasingly avant leanings began to isolate the music from those who were still looking for music to be entertaining, danceable and approachable.
Then there was Creed Taylor, the legendary producer who first came to attention for his role in now-iconic recordings like saxophonist Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1964), composer/arranger Gil Evans' Out of the Cool (Impulse!, 1960), saxophonist Stan Getz's classic bossa nova record, Getz/Gilberto (Verve, 1963), and pianist Bill Evans' Conversations with Myself (Verve, 1963). Creating his own CTI imprint in 1967first under the auspices of A&M Records, but later, in 1970, as an independent entityTaylor built a discography, over the course of thirteen years, that strove to position jazz as both deep and accessible; terrific performances, lushly recorded and more than occasionally saccharined up with the sound of strings, that also appealed to people who didn't like jazz...or, perhaps, those who had stopped liking jazz.
Recruiting some of jazz's biggest American namesand, in other cases, taking artists and pushing them up onto the larger listening public's radar for the first timeCTI managed, for the most part, to tread a very fine line between commercial and artistic concerns. Some well-known artists released career-defining records like Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay (1970), where the trumpeter moved away from his string of bop-centric Blue Note releases to a more contemporary style that leaned heavily on the sound of Herbie Hancock's Fender Rhodes, along with stellar performances from saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Lenny White. It was an important record that weighed heavily on groove and simple melodies, but not at the expense of powerful, uncompromising playing. Others, like young gun George Benson, had already begun to garner attention with Taylor-produced titles through A&M, including Shape of Things to Come (1968); but before the guitarist became a crossover hit with vocal-heavy records like Breezin' (Warner Bros., 1976), he'd struck gold with CTI releases including 1971's Beyond the Blue Horizon and 1973's Body Talk. For flautist Hubert Laws, CTI was his ticket to rapid stardom, with albums including 1972's Morning Star and 1974's In the Beginning.
Much of the CTI catalog has been available on CD in some shape or form over the past couple decades, but with the start of a new series of reissues, remastered from the original two-track tapes, CTI Masterworks is aiming to create the definitive catalogue of some of Creed Taylor's best productions. The first batch includes, along with Red Clay, trumpeter Chet Baker's She Was Too Good To Me (1974), Antonio Carlos Jobim's Stone Flower (1970), saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's hit, Sugar (1971), Laws' Morning Star (1973) and guitarist Kenny Burrell's God Bless the Child (1971), along with a significantly expanded version of California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium (1971), with an all-star band featuring Hubbard, Laws, Turrentine, Benson, altoist Hank Crawford, keyboardist Johnny Hammond, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Cobham and percussionist Airto Moreiraall in soft digipaks that recreate CTI's classic gatefold design.
Heavy stuff. And to get the juices going even further, there's CTI RecordsThe Cool Revolution, a chock-a-block four-disc set, lovingly packaged to resemble one of the label's original classic gatefold vinyl sleevesfive hours of music divided into four categories that loosely position the label's multifaceted interests: Straight Up, featuring some of CTI's most swinging, mainstream jazz; Deep Grooves/Big Hits, covering the label's bigger commercial successes, both on its flagship label and Kudu, its urban imprint; The Brazilian Connection, linking Taylor's 1970s work with his earlier interest in bossa nova; and Cool and Classic, another mainstream disc, but with an emphasis on the cooler side of the equation.
Looking at the collective personnel, it's almost easier to list who Taylor didn't recruit for his sessions, as the choices ranged far and wide across the then-current map of American jazz musicians. Hard-bopping artists like Hubbard, saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianists Randy Weston, Sir Roland Hanna and Kenny Barron (though most pianists were encouraged towards the sound of electric piano, with the acoustic variety a rare participant across these 39 tracks), stood alongside (and occasionally mixed with) funkier groove-meisters including drummers Steve Gadd and Christopher Parker, keyboardist Richard Tee, guitarists Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree, and bassist Gordon Edwardssix session players who would later become collectively known as Stuff, also (well, four of them, plus bassist Tony Levin) backing singer/songwriter Paul Simon in his semi-autobiographical 1980 film, One Trick Pony.
There's plenty to love for folks of most persuasions, though the breadth of the collection also means that there's some material that might not appeal. Don Sebesky's sometimes overbearing strings make tracks from 1973's Giant Box a little lush for their own good; still, his work on guitarist Jim Hall's classic Concierto (1975) remains spot-on, on his expansive, 19-minute arrangement of Joaquin Rodrigo's often-sourced-for-jazz "Concierto De Aranjuez," its unedited inclusion here also pointing to another of the collection's strengths. All too often, compilations aim to fill up their CDs with shorter tracks to ensure fuller cross-representation, and this collection certainly packs a lot into its four discs, but not at the expense of lengthier and absolutely essential workouts, like the 12-minute title track to Hubbard's Red Clay and his Latin-esque, 11-minute title track to 1971's First Light; and Hammond's soulful, also-11-minute look at Carole King's pop hit, "It's Too Late," from his aptly titled Kudu album, Breakout (1971). There are contrasting takes on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) classic, "So What": Ron Carter's rhythmically knotty sextet version from the Davis alum bassist's Spanish Blue (1975), that ultimately simmers with cool intensity under Hubert Laws' soaring solo; and George Benson's organ-driven quintet version from Beyond the Blue Horizon, which burns at a greater temperature, even as it effortlessly shifts through a series of tempos and feels.
Of course, there's no value in length for length's sake, and another characteristic of the CTI catalogue, based on this collection, is that Taylor's choices, as producer, were astute. Music went on for as long as it needed tono more, no less. Radio-friendly songs like vocalist Esther Phillips' career-making, disco-fied title track to 1975's What a Difference a Day Makes (Kudu) are includedand, thankfully, this one is short, though Phillips' distinctive voice, jittery vibrato and the song's ultimate ubiquity still make it an important piece of jazz history. Any CTI retrospective has to include it, though greater thanks to series producer Richard Seidel for also including the far greasier "Home is Where the Hatred Is," from From a Whisper to a Scream (Kudu, 1972), with its potent message in a compelling soul-jazz wrapping that would fit perfectly in the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film, Jackie Brown. And while it may not have been a huge hit, saxophonist Joe Farrell's terrific version of John McLaughlin's "Follow Your Heart," from the saxophonist's Joe Farrell Quartet (1970), possesses its own kind of fire and pulse, thanks to bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette---not to mention some energetic rhythm playing from the soon-to-be-fusion-god guitarist that suggests a straighter line from his sometimes overlooked British debut, Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969), to the more aggressive rock-centricities of his playing on Davis' A Tribute to Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970).
Farrell also shows up on an alternate version of Chick Corea's title track to the pianist's Return to Forever (ECM, 1972), this time on then-RTF percussionist Airto Moreira's Free, also released the same year. This version, which features RTF in its entirety, with electric bassist Stanley Clarke and singer Flora Purim, gets a more expansive and structured treatment, its seven-piece horn section, arranged with great care and near-perfection by Sebesky, still leaving plenty of collective improvisational space for the core group and added second bassist, Ron Cartera rare case where more actually is more. Another Airto track, "Tombo in 7/4," from Fingers (1973), makes its US appearance on CD for the first time, with a lesser-known but more authentically Brazilian group.
Another track making its first American appearance on CD here is the title track to Carter's All Blues (1973), another track from Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and a rare, all-acoustic CTI track, featuring the laidback quartet of pianist Roland Hanna, saxophonist Joe Henderson and drummer Billy Cobham, who plays with a degree of understatement almost impossible to imagine from the drummer who, at that time, was filling arenas alongside John McLaughlin with the adrenalin-pumping, testosterone-filled and near-deafening roar of Mahavishnu Orchestra.
There's plenty more. Brazilian pianist/composer Eumir Deodato's funky megahit, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," from 1973's Prelude, is here, but so too is "Carly & Carole," a bossa that, alongside guitar work on two tracks from Antonio Carlos Jobim's Stone Flower, proves Deodator's unmistakable cred outside the realm of the hit-making machinery in which he'd suddenly found himself. Turrentine's title track to his own hit, Sugar (1970), is also here, but balanced by the Sugar Man's gentle version of Milton Nascimento's "Salt Song," from the 1971 album of the same name, where Deodato's string arrangement supports a surprisingly elegant rhythm section with Richard Tee, Eric Gale, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham and Airto.
CTI RecordsThe Cool Revolution also suggests a similar approach to cross-pollination and mixing and matching that had taken place the previous decade on Blue Note. Ron Carter appears on three-quarters of the compilation's tracks, while Hubbard, Benson, Laws, Turrentine, Cobham and Airto show up regularly across the four discs along with keyboardist Bob Jameswho, along with Deodato and Sebesky, provide the lion's share of the arrangements for the twenty tracks that use the more expansive palette of larger ensembles, like guitarist Kenny Burrell's poignant "A Child Is Born," from 1971's God Bless the Child, and Hubert Laws' similarly tender version of Gabriel Fauré's "Pavane," from 1971's Rite of Spring, one of many classical pieces that the flautist would adapt on albums that also included 1970's Afro Classic and 1974's In the Beginning. Benson, in particular, is stunning regardless of context, and his work here and on California Concert certainly bemoans the guitarist's increasing predilection for vocals that would emerge in the middle period of the 1970s.
While it's true that some tracks will appeal to some folks more than othersin a compilation this extensive, how could they not?what emerges, after absorbing the five hours of CTI RecordsThe Cool Revolution, with Dan Oulette's context-setting liner notes and Chuck Stewart's black and white session photographs, is a rarity amongst record labels: a label with a clear voice and a clear mission. A label that looked to coat the energy, excitement and spontaneity of jazz with a shinier veneer that would engender significant crossover appeal, to be sure, but, based on its combination of massive sellers and albums that remain cult classics nearly four decades on, an approach that speaks to the success of Creed Taylor's vision. Beautifully packaged and with a sonic upgrade that presents music that was clearly well-recorded at the time in the richest, most three-dimensional landscape ever, CTI RecordsThe Cool Revolution is more than a great place to start digging into the label's historyeither for the first time or as a revival of interest in a discography that was difficult to ignore, back in the day. Combined with CTI Masterworks' first round of single title reissues and the expanded California Concert, it's a clear portent of very good things to come, as the label gears up for its first round of titles in 2011: Benson's White Rabbit (1971), Deodato's Prelude (1973), Milt Jackson's Sunflower (1973), Paul Desmond's Pure Desmond (1975), Jim Hall's Concierto (1975), and Ron Carter's All Blues (1973).
Tracks: CD1 (Straight Up): Sugar (Stanley Turrentine); Moment's Notice (Hubert Laws); So What (Ron Carter); Autumn Leaves (Chet Baker); Speed Ball (Stanley Turrentine); The Intrepid Fox (Freddie Hubbard); Ifrane (Randy Weston); Free as a Bird (Don Sebesky); So What (George Benson). CD2 (Deep Grooves/Big Hits): Red Clay (Freddie Hubbard); It's Too Late (Johnny Hammond); Home is Where the Hatred Is (Esther Phillips); We Got a Good Thing Going (Hank Crawford); White Rabbit (George Benson); Fire and Rain (Hubert Laws); What a Difference a Day Makes (Esther Phillips); Follow Your Heart (Joe Farrell); Also Sprach Zarathustra (Deodato); Mister Magic (Grover Washington, Jr.). CD3 (The Brazilian Connection): Stone Flower (Antonio Carlos Jobim); Ponteio (Astrud Gilberto); First Light (Freddie Hubbard); Salt Song (Stanley Turrentine); Pensativa (Hubert Laws); Tombo in 7/4 (Airto); Sunflower (Milt Jackson); Return to Forever (Airto); Wave (Paul Desmond); Carly & Carole (Deodato); Brazil (Alternate Take) (Antonio Carlos Jobim). CD4 (Cool and Classic): My Funny Valentine (Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker); All Blues (Ron Carter); Song to a Seagull (Don Sebesky); Pavane (Hubert Laws); What'll I Do (Chet Baker); Westchester Lady (Bob James); A Child is Born (Kenny Burrell); Take Five (George Benson); Concierto De Aranjuez (Jim Hall).
Personnel: Stanley Turrentine: tenor saxophone (CD1#1, CD1#5, CD3#2, CD3#4); Freddie Hubbard: trumpet (CD1#1, CD1#6, CD2#1, CD3#3, CD3#7), flugelhorn (CD3#3, CD3#7); Lonnie L. Smith: electric piano (CD1#1); George Benson: electric guitar (CD1#1, CD1#9, CD2#4-5, CD3#3, CD4#8); Ron Carter: bass (CD1, CD2#1, CD2#5-6, CD2#9, CD3#1-4, CD3#7-11, CD4#1-5, CD4#7-9), electric bass (CD1#8, CD4#3), piccolo bass (CD1#8); Billy Kaye: drums (CD1#1); Hubert Laws: flute (CD1#2-4, CD2#5-6, CD3#2-3, CD3#5, CD3#10, CD4#4), alto flute (CD1#4, CD2#5), piccolo (CD2#5); Ronnie Laws; tenor saxophone (CD1#2); Bob James: electric piano (CD1#2, CD1#4-5, CD2#6, CD2#10, CD4#4-5), piano (CD2#10, CD4#1, CD4#4), electric harpsichord (CD4#4), keyboards (CD4#6); Steve Gadd: drums (CD1#2, CD1#4, CD4#8-9); Roland Hanna: electric piano (CD1#3), piano (CD4#2, CD4#9); Jay Berliner: guitar (CD1#3, CD3#7); Billy , Cobham: drums (CD1#3, CD1#5, CD1#7-8, CD2#2, CD2#5, CD2#9, CD3#4, CD3#7, CD3#10, CD4#2, CD4#7), percussion (CD4#2); Ralph MacDonald: percussion (CD1#3, CD2#7, CD2#10, CD3#7, CD4#6); Chet Baker: trumpet (CD1#4, CD4#1, CD4#5, CD4#9); Romeo Penque: flute (CD1#4), clarinet (CD1#4); George Marge: flute (CD1#4), oboe (CD1#4); Paul Desmond: alto saxophone (CD1#4, CD3#9, CD4#5, CD4#9); Dave Friedman: vibraphone (CD1#4, CD2#6, CD4#4-5), percussion (CD4#4); Milt Jackson: vibraphone (CD1#5, CD3#7); Cornell Dupree: guitar (CD1#5, CD2#3); Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone (CD1#6, CD2#1, CD4#2); Herbie Hancock: electric piano (CD1#6, CD2#1, CD2#5, CD3#7), piano (CD3#7); Lenny White: drums (CD1#6, CD2#1); additional orchestra, arranged by Don Sebesky (CD1#7-8, CD2#4-5, CD2#7, CD3#3, CD3#7-8< CD4#3-5, CD4#7-9); Randy Weston: electric piano (CD1#7); Grover Washington, Jr.: tenor saxophone (CD1#7, CD2#2, CD2#10); Airto Moreira: percussion (CD1#7, CD2#2-3, CD2#5-6, CD2#9, CD3#2-4, CD3#6, CD3#8, CD3#11, CD4#4), vocal (CD2#5, CD3#6, CD3#8), drums (CD3#4, CD3#6); Don Sebesky: electric piano (CD1#8, CDD4#3); Clarence Palmer: organ (CD1#9); Jack DeJohnette: drums (CD1#9, CD2#8, CD3#3, CD4#3-5); Johnny Hammond: organ (CD2#2); Hank Crawford: alto saxophone (CD2#2-4); Danny Moore: trumpet (CD2#2); Eric Gale: guitar (CD2#2-3, CD2#10, CD3#4); Johnny Williams: electric bass (CD2#2); Esther Phillips: vocals (CD2#3, CD2#7); Richard Tee: piano (CD2#3, CD3#4), organ (CD2#3, CD3#4), electric piano (CD3#4); Gordon Edwards: bass (CD2#3-4); Bernard Purdie: drums (CD2#3-4); additional orchestra, arranged by Pee Wee Ellis (CD2#3); Earl Klugh: guitar (CD2#5); Freddie Waits: drums (CD2#6); Richie "Pablo" Landrum: percussion (CD2#6); Don Grolnick: keyboards (CD2#7); Joe Beck: guitar (CD2#7); Steve Khan: rhythm guitar (CD2#7); Eric Weisberg: steel guitar (CD2#7); Will Lee: bass (CD2#7); Chris Parker: drums (CD2#7); Joe Farrell: tenor saxophone (CD2#8), soprano saxophone (CD3#8), alto and bass flutes (CD3#8), piccolo (CD3#8); John McLaughlin: electric guitar (CD2#8); Dave Holland: bass (CD2#8); Eumir Deodato: piano (CD2#9), electric piano (CD2#9, CD3#2, CD3#10-11); orchestra arrangement and conducting (CD2#9, CD3#1, CD3#4), guitar (CD3#1, CD3#11); John Tropea: electric guitar (CD2#9); Stanley Clarke: electric bass (CD2#9, CD3#8); Ray Barretto: conga (CD2#9, CD3#10), percussion (CD4#7); orchestra arranged by Bob James (CD2#10, CD4#6); Phil Upchurch: bass (CD2#10, CD4#8), guitar (CD4#8); Harvey Mason: drums (CD2#10, CD4#1); Antonio Carlos Jobim: penny whistle (CD3#1), electric piano (CD3#11), vocal (CD3#11); João Palma: drums (CD3#1-2, CD3#11), percussion (CD3#11); Harry Lofsky: violin (CD3#1); Astrud Gilberto: vocal (CD3#2); Toots Thielemans: harmonica (CD3#2); Sivuca: guitar (CD3#2); Sam Brown: guitar (CD3#2); Richard Wyands: electric piano (CD3#3, CD4#7), piano (CD4#7); orchestra arranged by John Murtaygh (CD3#5); Hugo Fatturoso: keyboard (CD3#6), harmonica (CD3#6), vocal (CD3#6); David Amaro: acoustic guitar (CD3#6), electric guitar (CD3#6); Ringo Thielemann: bass (CD3#6), vocal (CD3#6); Jorge Fatturoso: drums (CD3#6), vocal (CD3#6); Flora Purim: percussion (CD3#6), vocal (CD3#6, CD3#8); Chick Corea: electric piano (CD3#8), piano (CD3#8); Ed Bickert: electric guitar (CD3#9); Connie Kay: drums (CD3#9); Everaldo Ferreira: percussion (CD3#11), matchbox (CD3#11); Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone (CD4#1); Dave Samuels: percussion (CD4#1); Wally Kane: bassoon (CD4#4); Jeff Mironov: guitar (CD4#6); Gary King: bass (CD4#6); Andy Newmark: drums (CD4#6); Kenny Burrell: electric guitar (CD4#7); Kenny Barron: electric piano (CD4#8); Jim Hall: guitar (CD4#9).