Exploring CTI Records, Part One: 1969 – 1971

Exploring CTI Records, Part One: 1969 – 1971

Written by Rudy Radelic

At the end of the A&M 60th anniversary series in Copper (in Issue 176)I featured recordings released as a collaboration between A&M Records and Creed Taylor’s CTI imprint. This CTI series picks up where the last A&M installment left off. In this article, we’ll look at a handful of recordings from CTI’s early days as an independent label, including artists who were a holdover from the A&M years.

Around the time Creed Taylor departed A&M there were a handful of recording sessions which overlapped, with the results ending up on either A&M or CTI. One album, like Stonebone by J&K (J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding), was squarely in the style that Taylor would become known for on his earliest CTI 6000-Series releases, yet the album remained with A&M, and was released only in Japan in 1970. It later saw release worldwide as a Record Store Day title just a couple of years ago.

Curiously, one A&M album, Paul Desmond’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, had Taylor’s sound and style, yet arranger Don Sebesky was listed as a producer. (Taylor produced Desmond’s two prior albums for A&M/CTI.) Another album that was shelved was Tamba 4’s California Soul, being the topic of rumors for decades until it was finally released as an A&M/CTI title just a few years ago.

We can only guess that the parting of A&M and CTI was not without its share of issues.

As with the A&M/CTI albums, Taylor demanded the best visual presentation for the packaging, and the photography of Pete Turner was carried over when CTI went independent.

The only artist whose sessions straddled both labels simultaneously was Antonio Carlos Jobim. He recorded two sessions with Creed Taylor. The first sessions from May, 1967 were released as the Wave album, but the second session’s recordings from March and April of 1970 were split between the lackluster A&M/CTI album Tide and the sublime release on CTI 6002, Stone Flower. (Tide, being one of the final A&M/CTI titles, curiously did not display the CTI logo on the original front cover.)

The title track of Stone Flower became better known when Santana covered it on the Caravanserai album a couple of years later; Carlos Santana also appropriated the riff from the melody of another Jobim song on the same album: “God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun.” The dreamy “Children’s Games” appeared on this album, as did Ary Barroso’s well-known song “Brazil.” My favorite from this excellent recording is the low-key “Andorinha.”

A couple of A&M/CTI 3000 Series catalog numbers were reserved but never assigned an album. One of those was possibly intended to be A&M SP-3026, an unnamed album by Hubert Laws. Those sessions from July and September of 1969 ended up becoming Laws’ Crying Song album. It first saw release in 1969 on CTI’s short-lived 1000 Series LPs, as CTI 1002. Laws never had an album on the A&M/CTI version of the label, but he was a session musician on many, if not most, of the albums Taylor recorded during these years.

Like the other four albums in CTI’s 1000 series, Crying Song sounds almost nothing like the other recordings Taylor produced during this era, except for the lone Laws composition on the record, “How Long Will It Be?,” which is featured below. The title track of the album is a cover of Pink Floyd’s original, and he also covers songs by the Bee Gees, the Monkees, Traffic, and others. The album would see a reissue only a year later under the same title, but started off CTI’s 6000 Series as CTI 6000.

If there was ever a “first” for the CTI label, it would ultimately be CTI 1001, a self-titled album by vocalist and composer Kathy McCord. Here is “Rainbow Ride,” which led off the record. While it has a couple of Taylor’s signature touches, it is aligned more with the pop/rock audience than it is jazz.

George Benson also followed Creed Taylor to CTI. For his first album, CTI 6009, he recorded in a quartet format with Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, and Clarence Palmer on organ. Here, the quartet tackles the Miles Davis favorite “So What,” with plenty of room for everyone to stretch out.

Stanley Turrentine would join CTI early on, and his first album for the label, Sugar (CTI 6005), became one of his more famous recordings. Here is the title track.

Freddie Hubbard was another musician who played in the background of Taylor’s recordings, and his first session for the label as a leader, Red Clay (CTI 6001), melds the styles of hard bop, fusion and funk. His quintet on this record features Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, and Lenny White. The title track shows off this group’s strengths.

Astrud Gilberto did not follow Taylor over from A&M, but had worked with him on her handful of albums for Verve Records, during the height of the bossa nova movement. On this recording with Stanley Turrentine, Gilberto with Turrentine (CTI 6008), she performs a song written by renowned Brazilian composer Edu Lobo. Here is “Ponteio.”

Bill Evans also had a one-off CTI album, CTI 6004, with this live recording from the Casino de Montreux, Switzerland, in June of 1970. His trio for this gig was Eddie Gomez (bass) and Marty Morell (drums). Eight tracks from the gig were released as the Montreux II album on CTI. This is “34 Skidoo.”

Joe Farrell was a flexible woodwind session player specializing in flute, saxophone and oboe, and appeared on numerous jazz and pop/rock albums from the 1960s forward. Farrell was also a member of the first version of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. CTI afforded him the chance to record albums under his own name and this first album, Joe Farrell Quartet, CTI 6003, found in in good company with Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette. McLaughlin’s “Follow Your Heart” opens the album.

The next installment in the CTI series will look at additional artists who joined the labels in the 1970s, and will also include a surprise hit based on the work of a classical composer.

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