This will be the final Ear to Ear playlist blog from CapRadio Music. We’ve loved bringing you jazz and classical playlist blogs each month over the past year and a half, and we’re planning to introduce something new and exciting in this space in the future.
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Veteran producer Creed Taylor launched CTI Records in 1967 as a division of A&M Records.
Taylor took the company fully independent in 1970 thanks to early successes with artists like Wes Montgomery and Paul Desmond. But he was a more astute producer than businessman and declared bankruptcy in 1978. During that decade of CTI Records, Taylor documented many of the leading proponents of modern music, including George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, and Ron Carter.
CTI was known for its beautiful album covers with “suitable for framing” photography and artful design. Inside those covers was a diverse body of music, from the straight-ahead neo-bop of Freddie Hubbard to the very commercial offerings of Bob James. Many CTI albums featured swinging rhythms, lush arrangements, expansive instrumentation, and soulful improvisation.
Let’s take a look back at four very different and very special CTI offerings.
Paul Desmond — “Outubro (October)”
Recorded in 1969 while CTI was still under the A&M umbrella, “From the Hot Afternoon” features Desmond’s warm lyricism perfectly placed in an orchestral setting by arranger Don Sebesky. Sergio Mendes was said to have come up with the idea of combining Desmond’s “dry martini” sound with the brilliant compositions of Brazil’s Milton Nascimento and Edu Lobo.
On Nascimento’s “Outubro,” Desmond’s haunting tone soars over a skillful, lush arrangement. Taylor, who already had great success producing Antonio Carlos Jobim for Verve in 1963, confirms his passion for capturing the warm sound of Brazil on this recording.
Joe Farrell — “Sound Down”
Known as a versatile studio musician and hard-bop pioneer in the 1960s, Joe Farrell expanded his creative horizons with several CTI albums in the 1970s. On 1971’s “Outback,” this tenor saxophone icon is surrounded by a world-class rhythm section made up of pianist Chick Corea, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Elvin Jones.
Farrell had played in Jones’ trio in the ‘60s and the chemistry they established then is evident here. On “Sound Down,” Farrell switches to soprano sax and unleashes brilliant solos. This is not the smooth jazz some remember CTI for, but uncompromising high art instead.
Freddie Hubbard — “The Intrepid Fox”
In the early ‘70s, Freddie Hubbard was leading all the jazz polls as the nation’s top trumpeter. While his CTI debut is best known for its title composition “Red Clay,” Hubbard composed three other innovative songs for that album, including “The Intrepid Fox.”
Hubbard’s trumpet hits the stratosphere on this one while Herbie Hancock on the Fender Rhodes nicely supports Joe Henderson’s signature tenor saxophone work. While Hubbard would go on to receive a well-deserved Grammy for “First Light” in 1972, “Red Clay” remains his most profound artistic statement.
Jim Hall — “Concierto De Aranjuez”
While most everyone remembers the intriguing 1960 Miles Davis/Gil Evans rendering of Joaquin Rodrigo’s classical guitar concerto, guitarist Jim Hall and arranger Don Sebesky put their own personal stamp on this classic on the 1975 CTI album “Concierto.” Sebesky, CTI’s house arranger, leaves plenty of space for elegant solos by Roland Hanna on piano and Paul Desmond on alto sax. Chet Baker also sounds divine on this lengthy recording.
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