News reached me earlier today that Creed Taylor has passed away.
My sincere condolences and sympathy to Creed’s family. A a life well lived is a life worth living. Creed’s life was more than well lived, and his legacy will be with us forever.
In their obituaries, others will extol the virtue and recordings Creed made, the longevity of his career. They’ll discuss his impact on jazz, both good and bad. They’ll talk about how the “financial troubles” bought an end to CTI, without really understanding why.
He saved jazz in the 1970’s in a way other producers could not; few remember, when Creed left A&M to go out on his own and start the independent CTI, Woodstock happened a month later. Jazz was out of “fashion” and outdated, rapidly being superseded by rock concerts, electronic instruments, the peace love and happiness generation.
In remembering Creed today, I’d like to remember all the great musicians he enabled. No matter if you liked his music, loved it or hated it, no matter how you label it, he bought great jazz musicians to the world that we would likely never experience without him.
I’ve been working on a second in-depth piece about Esther Phillips. Sure, Johnny Otis discovered “Little Esther”, but would we have had the chance to hear Esther sing Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” or cover Dinah Washington’s “What A Difference A Day Makes” and turn it into a global disco hit without Creed? It still makes me so incredibly happy to see Esther on Saturday Night Live, with all her troubles behind her and on top of her gameRemembering Esther Phillips – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com).
Jimmy Smith’s Hammond B3, yeah, he did a lot of great blues style, jam albums for Blue Note. It was his Verve albums, produced by Creed that opened him up to both commercial success and to a global audience; Grover Washington Jr. was still working in a “One-Stop” store when he stood in for Hank Crawford, who was a no-show for a recording gig in the legendary Van Gelder studio; Creed let Grover take over; Grover was still stocking shelves when put copies of his own leader album “Inner City Blues” came out, and the rest is history. Would another producer have given Grover his shot on a new label?
George Benson is a great guitarist, and he’s achieved some amazing recordings and successes. In the first years after Woodstock, while electric instruments and glam rock was taking over, was the world ready for Benson to sing? Deodato’s 2001 made CTI, and by implication Deodato, but the All-Stars had been using different arrangements for 2-years prior to Deodato’s arrival. Bob James, the list goes on and on.
And yeah, CTI screwed up with the distribution initiative in 1973, but the industry behemoths crushed CTI after circling like hawks for a couple of years waiting to pick the bones of the carcass. If what Creed was doing was so bad, why did so many go on to emulate it after the end of CTI?
It wasn’t until after CTI ended that smooth jazz started, Creed would have never ascribed to the same old same old. He was always looking for something new, a new sound, new sidemen, new leaders, even new technology, from stereoAm-Par, Electro-Voice and the Story Of Stereo – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com) to videoOn This Day: Rhythmstick – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), Creed was there at the start and continued to pushing the boundaries.
It really doesn’t matter what other people thought of Taylor’s productions, and he knew he was the scorn of many, tens of millions of people loved them then, and still do. His productions are in their way timeless. They bought joy, solitude, they elevated our mood. Creed produced, for many of us, the soundtrack of our lives.
That’s how I’ll remember Creed.
In his 1947 Pearisburg High School Senior yearbook, Creed Taylor is listed with his favorite saying “Shucks!”; his ambition as “Orchestral Arranger”; lists his hobby as music, and his motto as “Experience is the best teacher”. Chase your dreams, you’ll never know where they might lead. Creed did and look what happened to him.
Enjoy these from Creed Taylor’s High School Yearbook where Creed was voted “Neatest Personality“, “Most Talented” and was a member of the Boys’ Monogram Club and the band. So much music ahead!
ctproduced Birthday Tributes 2020 | 2021 | 2022
Doug Payne – Obituary Tribute
Neil Genzlinger – New York Times Obituary (gift link, no paywall)
Richard Williams – The Guardian Obituary (had wrong date, now corrected)
Devin Leonard – Wax Poetics, originally published 209
Added NY Times gift link. Add “In their obituaries,” to paragraph-2.
5th September 2022, added Guardian Obit’
14th September 2022, added Wax Poetics.