Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Various Artists - CTI: The Cool Revolution (Sony, 2010)

After helping to form the Verve and Impulse! labels, jazz producer Creed Taylor struck out on his own, lending his initials to his new label, and signing some of the most commercially viable jazz talent of the day. This four disc retrospective mostly covers CTI's years as an independent company during the 1970's. CTI was well known at the time for heavily produced music often employing extra percussion and string arrangements to make it more palatable to the general public. Despite this (and sometimes even because of it) the label managed to make music that was appealing to the general music fan and the jazz connoisseur. The four parts of this collection are: Disc 1, Straight Up which contains examples of their most orthodox jazz, including a nice rendition of John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" and George Bensons's slow and stately version of Miles Davis' "So What." Also featured is the popular and soulful "Sugar" by saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Disc 2, Deep Grooves/Big Hits, is anchored by Freddie Hubbard's epic "Red Clay" and the haunting vocal number the haunting "Home is Where the Hatred Is." Some attempts at pop crossover by George Benson on "White Rabbit" and "Fire and Rain" by the Hubert Laws are also included. Disc 3 moves into the music of Brazil with a disc called The Brazilian Connection. Taylor was one of the first to help introduce bossa-nova to the United States, so it stands to reason he would record much Brazilian influenced music on his label. This disc contains tracks by bossa titans like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrid Gilberto as well as percussion heavy work by Airto. Disc 4 concludes in jazzier territory, entitled Cool And Classic. Jim Hall's lengthy "Concierto De Aranjuez" is featured along with standards like "All Blues" and "Take Five." The CTI aesthetic can be a hard pill to swallow for fans of progressive jazz, and it's fascinating to think that while these albums were being released with rounded off edges and extra strings, men were toiling in the lofts of New York City to push jazz forward. It's part of the dichotomy that makes the 1970's such a fascinating and critically overlooked period in jazz. There's some genuinely good music to be found on this set, and some self-indulgent cheese as well. It gave birth to smooth jazz, yet allowed talented musicians to make records when jazz was at its lowest commercial ebb. It's a piece of the jazz puzzle that cannot be ignored. CTI Records: The Cool Revolution -

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