CTI on BGO, Part 2

Jakob Baekgaard By

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2018 proved to be a very good year for reissues of CTI-albums on the British label, BGO. They stepped up with an abundance of albums from the likes of guitarist Jim Hall, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and flautist Hubert Laws (you can read about them here). So far, 2019 also looks promising and kicks off with releases from Brazilian percussion wizard Airto Moreira and Turrentine. Hubert Laws also returns, this time in a combined release with guitarist George Benson.

Stanley Turrentine
Cherry / Don't Mess With Mister T. / The Sugar Man

The first volume of Stanley Turrentine's albums on CTI, covering Sugar (1970), Salt Song (1971) and Gilberto with Turrentine (1971), showed the saxophonist in his most eclectic mood, spanning bluesy workouts, breezy Brazilian vocal music and elaborate gospel compositions with choir.

The second 2CD-set containing Cherry (1972), Don't Mess With Mister T. (1973) and The Sugar Man (1975) sees Turrentine settling on his signature sexy soul-jazz sound with a robust tenor voice with soft shadings of Stan Getz. Cherry is the closest thing Turrentine comes to chamber-jazz and it's no coincidence since it's a shared billing with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who perfected the chamber-jazz sound with The Modern Jazz Quartet. The ethereal elegance of this group is conveyed on the title track and "I Remember You" while "Sister Sanctified" is feisty and funky and "Speedball" pure swinging pleasure.

Jackson and Turrentine are supported by guitarist Cornell Dupree and Bob James on piano and electric piano while bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Cobham take care of the rhythm section. Cobham does a splendid job and is back on duty with Don't Mess With Mister T., but, surprisingly, Creed Taylor ditched him along the way and replaced him with another great drummer, Idris Muhammad.

The three previously unreleased tracks with Cobham are among the highlights of the set and show the limitations of Taylor's aesthetic. They are a bit too spicy and hot to the cool aesthetic of CTI, but hearing the title track without orchestral flourish and with new emphasis on the deep bluesy lines of Turrentine adds a different quality to the music. Cobham's track "Mississippi Strut" is a hot sauce-gem with Turrentine stretching out at his best without the gloss of Taylor's soundscapes.

However, Taylor's use of orchestrations also has its advantages and the inclusion of strings and brass creates a symphonic complexity in Turrentine's music where he flies away in different settings. This is showcased superbly on the tracks compiled on the album The Sugar Man, featuring the lush "Pieces of Dreams" and the dancing Brazilian brilliance of "Vera Cruz," with bongos and triangle-sophistication. Whether he was in a small group or in a large setting, Turrentine delivered the goods and this package of CTI-releases are filled with prime-cuts.

Hubert Laws / George Benson with Hubert Laws
In the Beginning / In Concert -Carnegie Hall

Hubert Laws is another artist on CTI whose work has been documented extensively on BGO. The combined package of his 1974 offering In the Beginning and In Concert -Carnegie Hall (1976), where he is featured as a guest star with guitarist George Benson, follows two previously released packages covering the albums: Crying Song (1969), Afro-Classic (1970), Rite of Spring (1971), Morning Star (1972), At Carnegie Hall (1973) and The Chicago Theme (1974).

Contrary to the suggestion of the title, In the Beginning finds Laws in the middle phase of his career where his style has matured. The double-album, taking up the space of one CD in the 2CD-set, is considered one of his masterpieces where Laws moves effortlessly between different genres. The title track written by Clare Fischer is a tour de force whose musical twists and turns is described eloquently and in detail by annotator Charles Waring:

"His composition here is a complex piece of advanced bop, marrying different moods, tonal colours and tempi. It opens with Fischer's piano enunciating a jaunty but free-flowing melodic, which is doubled by Laws' flute before the full ensemble enters. A long slalom-like descending run leads to a moodier ostinato passage where Laws' flute breaks free with a darting solo. This eventually peters out and dissolves, leading to a slow, dreamy blues section over a half-time shuffle. (Ron) Carter's bass briefly comes to the fore three minutes in with a loping, elastic melody before Laws takes the first solo. The intensity of his solo increases as the tempo accelerates at around the five-minute mark before Laws and Fischer finish off the piece by revisiting the melodic motifs of the intro."

Waring's description shed lights on the complexity of the music, but Laws also has a wonderful sense of swing and melody and it says something about his stylistic diversity that the album both includes a lyrical reading of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie #1" and John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" whose composition is taken in free flute-flight.

The other release is not a leader date by Laws. Instead, he shows up as a prominent sideman on George Benson's In Concert -Carnegie Hall. It's a bit mysterious why BGO didn't choose to include Laws' CTI albums, Then There Was Light Vol. 1-2 instead, which would have made the package more coherent, but perhaps the reason is lack of space. Anyway, the album is a nice chance to hear guitarist George Benson stretching out with wonderful playing and while Laws only plays a minor role here, it is still more than worthwhile to hear these two masters in the same setting.

Free / Identity / Promises of the Sun

The final installment in this triptych of CTI-releases from BGO comes from percussionist Airto Moreira and billing it as a CTI-package is a bit of a stretch (this is not done by the label either). In fact, only one of the three albums gathered in the package, Free (1972), was released on CTI while Identity (1975) and Promises of the Sun came out on Arista.

Free finds Airto Moreira as a fully formed artist. He had already made a name for himself as a sideman for Miles Davis and a member of fusion-supergroup Weather Report and he also had experience as a leader with his previous albums Natural Feelings (1970) and Seeds on the Grounds (1971).

With Airto's debut for the CTI-label, Creed Taylor worked his magic and helped produce a sophisticated album that merges elements of funk, fusion, Brazilian music and acoustic swinging jazz. The rhythms bubble and simmer on the album and Hubert Laws contributes with his dancing flute on three tracks, including the acoustic oriental beauty of "Flora's Song," an homage to Airto's wife, the vocalist Flora Purim.

When Airto changed from CTI to Arista the smooth coolness was toned down and the electrified element and the rhythms turned up. It's felt most clearly on Promises of the Sun where Toninho Horta's huge electric guitar sound on the title track breaks with the more subtle approach of the CTI-aesthetic. Another change is that Airto also sings and delivers some wonderful scat-singing on "Candango." He also digs deeper into his Brazilian roots on the album Identity that was produced by Herbie Hancock and featured Wayne Shorter's soprano saxophone. Airto also uses his own voice as a horn, stretching his own voice in spiraling movements on "The Magicians (Bruxos)" where he also takes a heated scat solo in tandem with acoustic guitarist David Amaro.

Taken as a whole, these three albums give a fine portrait of the many talents of Airto Moreira, showing him not only as a superb percussionist, but also as a distinctive vocalist and occasional composer with a clear vision of creating rhythmically vibrant albums that unfold like complex and groovy narratives with a lyrical touch.

The liner notes mention three other Airto albums released on CTI. Perhaps these will also find their way into the comprehensive CTI-reissue campaign on BGO.

Tracks and Personnel

Cherry / Don't Mess With Mister T. / The Sugar Man

Tracks: CD1: Speedball; I Remember You; The Revs; Sister Sanctified; Cherry; Introspective; The More I See You; Don't Mess With Mister T.; Two For T.; Too Blue. CD2: I Could Never Repay Your Love; Pieces Of Dreams; Don't Mess With Mister T. (alternate take); Mississippi City Strut; Harlem Dawn; Pieces Of Dreams; The Stretch; Vera Cruz; More (Theme from 'Mondo Cane'); Make Me Rainbows; Just As I Am.

Personnel: Stanley Turrentine: saxophone; Milt Jackson: vibes; Bob James: electric piano, piano, arranger, conductor; Cornell Dupree: guitar; Billy Cobham: drums; Ron Carter: bass; Richard Tee: organ; Idris Muhammad: drums; Rubens Bassani: percussion; Erik Gale: guitar; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Frosk: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alan Raph: bass trombone; Pepper Adams,: baritone saxophone; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Joe Farrell: tenor saxophone; Harry Cykman; violin; Harry Glickman; violin; Emanuel Green: violin; Harold Kohon: violin; Guy Lumia: violin; David Nadien: violin; John Pintavalle: violin; Irving Spice: violin; Harold Coletta: viola; Emanuel Vardi: viola; Seymour Barab: cello; George Ricci: cello; Deodato: electric piano, arranger, conductor; Russell George: bass; Airto Moreira: percussion, drums; Joao Palma: percussion, drums; Dom Um Romão: percussion, drums; Hubert Laws: flute; George Marge: flute; Romeo Penque: flute; Jerome Richardson: flute, tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern; piano; Butch Cornell: organ, Kenny Burell: guitar; Ray Barretto: conga; Don Sebesky: arranger, conductor; Chico O'Farrill: arranger; Dave Friedman: vibes; George Benson: guitar; Curtis Fuller: trombone; Blue Mitchell: trumpet.

In the Beginning / In Concert -Carnegie Hall

Tracks: CD1: In The Beginning; Restoration; Gymnopedie #1; Come Ye Disconsolate; Airegin; Moment's Notice; Reconciliation; Mean Lene. CD2: Introduction; Gone; Take Five; Octane; Summertime; Sky Dive.

Personnel: Player Name: Hubert Laws: flute; Ron Carter: bass; Steve Gadd: drums; Airto Moreira: percussion; Dave Friedman: percussion, vibes; Gene Bertoncini: guitar; Clare Fischer: piano, electric piano; Bob James: piano, electric piano; Rodgers Grant: piano; Richard Tee: organ; Ronnie Laws: tenor saxophone; David Nadien: violin; Emanuel Vardi: viola; George Ricci: cello; George Benson: guitar; Ronnie Foster: keyboards; Wayne Dockery: bass; Will Lee: bass; Marvin Chappell: drums; Andy Newmark: drums; Ray Armando: percussion; Johnny Griggs: percussion.

Free / Identity / Promises of the Sun

Tracks: CD1: Return To Forever; Flora's Song; Free; Lucky Southern; Creek (Arroio). CD2: The Magicians (Bruxos); Tales From Home (Lendas); Identity; Encounter (Encontro No Bar); Wake Up Song (Baiao Do Acordar)/Café; Mãe Cambina; Flora On My Mind; Batucada; Zuei; Promises Of The Sun; Candango; Circo Marimbondo; La De Casa; Ruas Do Recife; Georgiana.

Personnel: Airto Moreira: drums, percussion, wood flutes, vocal; Ron Carter: bass; Stan Clarke: bass; Chick Corea: electric piano; Flora Purim: vocal; Burt Collins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mel Davis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alan Rubin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Andre: trombone; Garnett Brown: trombone; Joe Wallace: trombone; Joe Farrell: alto and bass flute, soprano saxophone, piccolo; Hubert Laws: flute; Jay Berliner: guitar; Keith Jarret: piano; George Benson: guitar; Nelson Ayres: electric piano; John Heard: bass; John Williams: bass; Louis Johnson: bass; David Amaro: guitar, 12 string guitar; Egberto Gismonti: acoustic piano, Rhodes electric piano, Arp Odyssey, Pro Soloist and String Ensemble, synthesizers, wooden flutes, acoustic guitar, arranger; Raul De Souza: trombone; Ted Lo: organ; Wayne Shorter: soprano saxophone; Herbie Hancock: Arp Odyssey synthesizer; Novelli: bass, acoustic guitar; Toninho Horta: guitar, 12 string guitar; Hugo Fattoruso: keyboards; Milton Nascimento: vocal, acoustic guitar; The Singing Snakes.

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