Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Four more CTI CDs - by Hubbard, Benson, Laws and Turrentine - reissued today!

Masterworks Jazz, a special division of Sony Music Entertainment, continues the celebration of the 40th anniversary of CTI Records, the controversial jazz label founded in 1970 by legendary producer Creed Taylor, with the release of 4 more classic reissues released today, June 14, 2011. They are: George Benson’s "Body Talk," Hubert Laws’ "In the Beginning," Freddie Hubbard’s "Straight Life," and Stanley Turrentine’s "Don’t Mess with Mister T."

These new reissues are produced by Richard Seidel, mastered by Mark Wilder, and packaged in eco-friendly softpack sleeves that replicate the original gatefold LP design (by CTI's legendary art director, Bob Ciano) and their iconic covers most with photos by Pete Turner, except on "Don't Mess With Mr. T" that brings a fantastic cover shot of Stanley by the great NY-based Irish photographer Alen MacWeeney.George Benson took a turn towards R&B with "Body Talk." The release climbed the Billboard jazz chart to #10 in 1973, which was an early indication of Benson’s successful move into soulful pop. All Music Guide said “It should come as no surprise by now that this formidable guitarist has no problem handling any kind of groove … Earl Klugh has a few tasty moments on his own, and there are some reconnaissance flights back to the jazz side of George, which he handles with his usual confident aplomb.”

Recorded in July 1973, the project paired Benson with arranger Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (of James Brown fame), featuring Harold Mabern, Ron Carter, Gary King, Jack DeJohnette, Mobuto, Earl Klugh, and a horn section with Jon Faddis, John Gatchell, Waymon Reed (Sarah Vaughan's then husband), Gerald Chamberlain, Dick Griffin & Frank Foster. More funky riffs than soul, except in a unaffected & unadorned version of Donny Hatthaway/Gene McDaniel's "When Love Has Grown." This reissue also includes an alternate take of the title track.

A Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist, Hubert Laws’ "In the Beginning" (from February 1974) is considered by many as one of the best albums of his career. Originally released as a 2-LP set, it later became available on two separate albums retitled "Then There Was Light." Oddly, a couple of months ago, it re-appeared on vinyl format in separate LPs under the title "In The Beginning Vols. 1 and 2." Anyway, the musical content is excellent, with great contributions by Clare Fischer, Rodgers Grant, Bob James, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Airto Moreira, Gene Bertoncini, Dave Friedman and Ronnie Laws, plus a string trio on Satie's "Gymnopedie #1." My personal favorite tracks are Sonny Rollin's "Airegin" (a terrific duo performance by Laws and Gadd!), Rodgers Grant's misterioso "Reconciliation" and Laws' own descarga "Mean Lene."

According to The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, “it is a good, expansive representation of his flute-playing.” All Music Guide calls the album “Hubert Laws at his finest. The music ranges from classical-oriented pieces to straight-ahead jazz with touches of '70s funk included in the mix … Whether it be in works by Satie or Sonny Rollins, this recording is one of the most rewarding of Hubert Laws’ career.”Freddie Hubbard’s "Straight Life" (1971), which hit #5 on the Billboard jazz chart, was released between his signature hits "Red Clay" and "First Light," but All Music Guide hails the album as “arguably Hubbard’s greatest recording … frequently astounding … essential for all serious jazz collections.” Hubbard's second album for CTI, "Straight Life," recorded in a single day session on November 16, 1970, followed "Red Clay" with another stellar cast: Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, George Benson, Richard "Pablo" Landrum, and Weldon Irvine (who wrote the acid-jazz anthem "Mr. Clean," revisited by the 2009 incarnation of the CTI All Stars during their European tour that year and on the "Montreux Jazz Festival" DVD.) Hubbard's title track is outstanding too, and the memorable set is rounded off by a pretty version of the standard "Here's That Rainy Day" performed only by the leader on flugelhorn, Carter on bass and Benson on the guitar.Stanley Turrentine’s "Don’t Mess with Mister T" was another artistic triumph for the tenor sax legend during his tenure with CTI. In 1974, the recording reached #2 on the Billboard jazz chart. “What first leaps out and grabs the listener's attention is Turrentine's sweet yet muscular sound…” David H. Rosenthal wrote in his book Hard Bop. “A flexible voice, it can deepen to a resonant honk, soar into one of the most piercingly full-throated cries in jazz, and broaden to a thick, sensuous vibrato on ballads. Turrentine tends to play on top of the beat, making for a deep, trancelike groove, and his phrasing draws on both modern jazz and R&B.”

"Don't Mess With Mr. T," titled after the classic soul tune composed by Marvin Gaye, was Stanley Turrentine's final album for CTI. Cut in 1973, features lush orchestral scores by Bob James, who also plays the hip acoustic piano solo on the title track. Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Rubens Bassini and Eric Gale are in the rhythm section, with more jazz heavyweights such as Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Jerry Dodgion & Randy Brecker among the horn players. Besides the four tracks in the original vinyl release, the sessions yielded more tracks like a lovely version of Michel Legrand's "Pieces of Dreams," later included in the out-takes compilation "The Sugar Man." This CD release also includes three bonus tracks available on CD for the first time in the U.S.: an alternate version of the title track, “Mississippi City Strut” and “Harlem Dawn.”
Sony kicked off the 40th anniversary celebration with the release of "CTI Records: The Cool Revolution," a deluxe 4-CD multi-artist box set retrospective in 2010. Receiving rave reviews The Associated Press dubbed it “…the most comprehensive anthology to date” and NPR said it was “… as striking a portrait of the Jazz World in the ‘70s as you’ll find anywhere.”Also released in Fall 2010 was the double-CD restoration of "California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium" (1971) which included 90-minutes of music rarely heard and never before available. It is the most complete version of the historic Hollywood Palladium all-star concert recorded July 18, 1971. It doubles the content of the original five-song LP release with five additional tracks - three of them previously unreleased - and restores the original concert sequence for the first time. Creed Taylor hand-picked a dream team of CTI artists for the occasion: Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Hank Crawford, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, Johnny Hammond, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham and Airto Moreira.The celebration also included reissues of 16 classic CTI albums: "She Was Too Good To Me" by Chet Baker, "God Bless the Child" by Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay" and "First Light," "Stone Flower" by Antonio Carlos Jobim, "Morning Star" by Hubert Laws (first time on CD anywhere in the world), Stanley Turrentine’s "Sugar" and "Salt Song," George Benson's "White Rabbit" and "Beyond The Blue Horizon," "All Blues" by Ron Carter (first time on CD in the U.S.), "Prelude" by Deodato, "Pure Desmond" by Paul Desmond, "Concierto" by Jim Hall, Milt Jackson’s "Sunflower" and Don Sebesky's monumental masterpiece "Giant Box."

In addition, Sony also released the following 180-gram vinyl LP reissues of 4 classic CTI albums using the original gatefold sleeve designs accompanied with digital download cards: Hubbard's "Red Clay," Turrentine’s "Sugar," Benson's "White Rabbit" and Deodato's "Prelude."

Four more albums will be reissued on CD for the first time here in the U.S. on August 9: Airto's fusion classic "Fingers" (his historic first collaboration with genius keyboardist-composer-arranger Hugo Fattoruso), Jackie & Roy's "A Wilder Alias" (featuring Joe Farrell, Harvie Swartz & Steve Gadd), Randy Weston's superb big-band date "Blue Moses" (arranged by Don Sebesky with Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws & Grover Washington, Jr. as guest soloists plus Ron Carter, Billy Cobham & Airto Moreira on the rhythm section), and Joe Farrell's "Outback" (with Chick Corea, Buster Williams, Elvin Jones & Airto.) All recorded at Van Gelder Studios, with Pete Turner's cover photos and Bob Ciano's artwork.

In the 1970s, CTI, its music, its style and its discriminating quality transformed contemporary jazz. The roster worked almost like a repertory company, in which great musicians took turns in the spotlight and accompanying each other. The albums they and their colleagues created set new standards in their look as well as their sound. “[Creed Taylor’s] plan was ingeniously simple, yet famously maverick: record top-tier musicians, keeping their artistic integrity intact while also making their art palatable to the people. CTI thus achieved that rare balance of jazz and commercialism,” writes Dan Ouellette in the liner notes. CTI surpassed the majors and fellow indies to be named the #1 Jazz Label of 1974 by Billboard. The immediate success of CTI’s recordings has echoed across the decades in a profound influence on jazz, pop, R&B and hip-hop.

For more information on these releases, please visit www.CTIMasterworks.com

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