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Hank Crawford: Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing

Read "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Saxophonist Hank Crawford will forever be linked to his one-time employer, the great Ray Charles, in the minds of R&B lovers, but soul-fusion fans are likely to remember him for a string of albums he recorded on the Kudu label in the 1970s. Crawford and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine proved to be the two pillars of potent saxophone soul in label head/producer Creed Taylor's stable during this era, but Crawford's work is often overlooked now, while Turrentine's albums still get ...

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Esther Phillips: Performance

Read "Performance" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

The decades-long battle with drug addiction, which ultimately led to her untimely demise, contributed to vocalist Esther Phillips' status as a tragic second-tier figure in the larger annals of popular music history, but her music itself was often a triumph of soul-stirring ecstasy. By the time Phillips arrived at CTI's sister label, Kudu Records, her early career hits--made under the name “Little Esther"--were a distant memory. A string of albums for Atlantic Records in the late '60s helped bring her ...

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Randy Weston: Blue Moses

Read "Blue Moses" reviewed by Eugene Holley, Jr.

Brooklyn-born, six-foot-seven octogenarian pianist/composer Randy Weston has literally been a larger-than-life jazz force for six decades: his percussive pianism was forged from a distinguished keyboard continuum, ranging from Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk to John Lewis; his “Little Niles" and “Hi-Fly" are well-worn jazz standards; and the pianist may well be the greatest exponent of the African roots of America's classical music. Weston lived in Morocco in the 1960s and '70s, opened a jazz club there, and was virtually a ...

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Stanley Turrentine: Don't Mess With Mister T.

Read "Don't Mess With Mister T." reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

When the CTI label originally released tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's Don't Mess With Mister T. in 1973, it managed to bring music to the public that served as a sign of the times, while also helping to define the times. The soul within Turrentine's horn had been at the center of his earlier successes for the label--Sugar (CTI, 1970), Salt Song (CTI, 1971) and Cherry (CTI, 1972)--but it really rose to the surface and reached its peak with this release. ...

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George Benson: Body Talk

Read "Body Talk" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

With a title like Body Talk, and a lead-off track called “Dance," George Benson--a guitar-god-on-the-rise when this album originally hit shelves in 1973--makes it clear that this music is all about feeling the groove. While a good number of Benson projects on CTI benefited from Don Sebesky's arrangements, the guitarist needed a funkier feeling for this album, and Pee Wee Ellis was just the man to provide it. Ellis helped to create the sound that defined the music of James ...

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Freddie Hubbard: Straight Life

Read "Straight Life" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

On the surface, Freddie Hubbard's Straight Life doesn't seem like a record that should have ever found much success on the CTI label. This record lacks any grandiose arrangements or classical-jazz crossovers, two of the three tracks are far too long to garner much airplay, and those same two tracks--"Straight Life" and “Mr. Clean"--are far rawer and more groove-oriented than standard CTI-issue material. That the programming is so odd--with a guitar and flugelhorn ballad following thirty minutes of soul-funk jamming--also ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Hubert Laws: In The Beginning

Read "Hubert Laws: In The Beginning" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Hubert LawsIn The BeginningCTI Masterworks2011 (1974) The release of a double album during the LP-era could be a double-edged sword. This format provided a platform for artists to elaborate on their ideas and serve a hefty portion of music to their fans and potential followers, but a single record forced musicians to self-edit a bit more, making them more likely to come out at the other end with a concise artistic ...

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Chet Baker: She Was Too Good To Me

Read "She Was Too Good To Me" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

Newly reminted in 2010's CTI Masterworks series, She Was Too Good To Me was originally Chet Baker's 1974 “comeback album," his first recording since a well-publicized mugging by junkie acquaintances (hardly “friends") that relieved the singer and trumpet player of his money, dope and most of his teeth. “Believe me," Baker once observed, “when a trumpet player has his teeth pulled, it's a comeback." Creed Taylor's velvety production proves the perfect setting, and the standards “Autumn Leaves" ...

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Don Sebesky: Giant Box

Read "Giant Box" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

It's a bit bizarre to find an album called Giant Box in a small cardboard case, or as a download lacking physical form, but times change. When Don Sebesky's grand musical statement on CTI hit the marketplace in 1973, it came in a classical-type record box, befitting the stature of the music. Opinions vary as to whether Sebesky can be said to have been a savior of jazz in the '70s, or a jazz Judas who helped ...

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George Benson: Beyond The Blue Horizon

Read "Beyond The Blue Horizon" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

George Benson has worn many hats throughout his career, from jazz-pop vocal star to soulful six-stringer, but his guitar god persona is probably exhibited best by Beyond The Blue Horizon (CTI, 1971). This album arrived five full years before Benson's popularity would explode with Breezin' (Warner Bros., 1976), and it presents this powerful instrumental presence in a no-nonsense, small group setting. Benson worked briefly with the great Miles Davis, as a guest on Miles In The Sky ...

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Stanley Turrentine: Salt Song

Read "Salt Song" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Stanley Turrentine's Sugar (CTI, 1970) has always stood out as the defining album in the tenor saxophonist's post-Blue Note discography, but that recording only marked the beginning of his beautiful relationship with Creed Taylor's CTI imprint. Turrentine's time with the label spanned the first half of the '70s and produced a few other winning albums that draped his thick, soulful sound in more modern aural fabrics of the times. Salt Song (CTI, 1971) was his follow-up to ...

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Freddie Hubbard: First Light

Read "First Light" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

It's fitting that the third wave of Sony Masterworks' CTI reissue campaign includes Freddie Hubbard's First Light, which was the third and final album in Hubbard's holy trinity on CTI. While the trumpet titan continued to record for Creed Taylor's imprint after this session, the work that followed First Light never fully measured up to his earlier successes for the label. Red Clay (CTI, 1970) was a bristling session with fulsome fusion meeting head-on with heady hard bop, ...