CTI Records, Part Six: The Keys to CTI

CTI Records, Part Six: The Keys to CTI

Written by Rudy Radelic

Keys – keyboards, and their players – play a big part in CTI’s many recordings, both as sidemen and as musicians featured on their own CTI or Kudu albums. Here, we will take a look at a few of the keyboardists on these labels.

One mainstay of the jazz radio station I listened to in my teens was “Westchester Lady,” written and performed by Bob James on his CTI album Three.


On a groovier note, Hammond B3 organist Johnny “Hammond” Smith (billed here as Johnny Hammond) was among the hat trick of organ-playing Smiths that Creed Taylor would feature as a producer. (He had recorded with Jimmy Smith during his tenure at Verve Records.) This is the title track from Hammond’s first album for Kudu, Breakout.


The other organ-playing Smith on Kudu Records was Hammond organist Lonnie Smith. “Mama Wailer” is the title track to his lone Kudu album, yet it features Smith making a rare appearance on clavinet throughout the song.


From the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival, pianist Bill Evans is featured here with his then-current trio featuring Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell on his composition “Peri’s Scope.” Evans had recorded a few albums with Creed Taylor at Verve, but only had this single live album, Montreux II, among CTI’s releases.


Pianist Roland Hanna had performed on a small number of CTI albums, but had one album under his name: Gershwin Carmichael Cats, the title effectively summing up the contents of the record. Here is the Hoagy Carmichael-penned “Stardust.”


Not to be confused with others bearing his name, David Matthews was prominent as an arranger on many CTI albums, as well as composing for film and television. His lone album, Dune, featured movie-oriented themes, including a couple from Star Wars, and this theme from Silent Running.


Antonio Carlos Jobim played both guitar and keyboards, and he is featured here on the Ary Barroso song “Brazil” from his Stone Flower album.


Finally, one of CTI’s biggest commercial successes was Eumir Deodato’s hit single “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” from his album Prelude. On the follow-up album Deodato 2, the album opens with “Super Strut,” featuring Deodato’s keyboards and arrangement along with the usual CTI gang backing him (Billy Cobham, John Tropea, Hubert Laws, and others), and Stanley Clarke handles the fluid bass lines.


Our next installment will feature some of the “top brass” at CTI.

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