I’ve spent more than a few days digging through my own, and online archives to try to answer questions about the CTI recording of Hubert Laws “Crying Song” album in 1969. Unless the Taylor family decide to donate or create an archive or library of Creed and CTI’s documents, Doug Payne and I both feel there are still questions that need to be answered, but those answers will likely remain unknown.

I contacted Hubert Laws and he didn’t provide any answers that we didn’t already know.

After another flurry of emails Doug declared he would tackle “Crying Song” legend, music and questions[1]http://dougpayne.blogspot.com/2022/10/rediscovery-hubert-laws-crying-song.html. It’s a great read for jazz historians. We’ve both come to the conclusion that the original sessions at American Sound Studios, were in fact for Herbie Mann. The session wasn’t for Stanley Turrentine as commonly understood, and how Creed had told Marc Myers[2]https://www.jazzwax.com/2022/08/creed-taylor-1929-2022.html. Doug lays out his reasoning.

I agree completely with his summation. I think it’s much simpler but that doesn’t mean both can’t be true at the same time.

When Taylor’s CTI imprint contract ended with A&M, Taylor had a number of unfinished albums. Doug covers this in detail.

It’s reasonable to assume that immediately post A&M/CTI breakup, Taylor didn’t have contracts in place for CTI to publish and release albums, and as discussed in “CT 1000 – The “popular” label”[3]https://www.ctproduced.com/ct-1000-the-popular-label/. Taylor was likely also looking for a route into popular music, given the changing times. Taylor would have been on the lookout for a successful album to launch the new CTI label. A follow-on album with Mann with the “Memphis Boys” makes perfect sense. Herbie had been one of Creed’s longest jazz contacts in New York City since 1954 and had recorded for Bethlehem including a Chris Connor album with Creed[4]https://www.discogs.com/artist/30721-Herbie-Mann?query=bethlehem.

Herbie, on the other had was in the midst of another change of musical direction, both recording and management. The “Crying Song” sessions were likely booked by Creed while he tried to convince Mann to sign a contract, Mann wanted more than Creed could afford at the time, and Mann also wanted more control, and a deal didn’t happen, and Hubert Laws got the call.

The Mann Embryo

What of Mann then?

In 1969, Herbie Mann inked a deal with Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion, for his wholly owned Embryo label, which launched in January 1970. He had learned from Creed and the launch of Impulse! Mann launched Embryo with four strong releases, “Stone Flute” – Herbie Mann which was nothing like anything Creed did at that time; “Gypsy Cry” – Attila Zoller; “Infinite Search” – Miroslav Vitous; and “Uptown Conversation” – Ron Carter. These were quickly followed by “Brute Force” – Brute Force and Mann’s own “Memphis Two-Step” and “Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty”

It’s highly likely that Mann had heard another Waters/Pink Floyd track, “The Embryo”. It had been recorded in 1969 but was only released on a little-known British prog-rock sampler double album Picnic “(A Breath Of Fresh Air)” in May 1970. The band played it while touring from 1968 through 1971, it never appeared on an official Pink Floyd album. This is where the Pink Floyd connection to Mann and the “Crying Song” sessions gets interesting.

Embryo, also introduced in January, has taken off. Mann’s own “Stone Flute” is a big hit, selling in both the jazz and rock markets. And albums by Ron Carter, Brute Force, Atilla Roller and Miroslav Vitous on Embryo are all doing well.

Cash Box magazine, March 21st, 1970

Also, worth noting for anyone that watched the Ron Carter biopic “Finding The Right Notes” this past weekend(October 21-23, 2022). Carter’s album “Uptown Conversation”[5]https://www.discogs.com/master/289351-Ron-Carter-Uptown-Conversation was recorded for Embryo, the cover of which features Ron with his two son’s Ron Jr. and the late Myles Carter. Both Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws are sidemen, along with Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham and Grady Tate.

By the end of 1971, the workload was starting to tell on Mann. Herbie had produced fifteen Embryo albums, including four of his own and Mann decided to end the Embryo experiment. Embryo also had three series based on label numbers for releases, as would CTI. It’s unclear that after their 1968 collaborations “Soul Flutes” and Benson’s “Shape of Things To Come” that Mann and Taylor worked together again. In 2020 vernacular it’s more likely they were “frenemies” from then on.

The Waters Connection

Cash Box magazine – October 14th, 1967

One of the unanswered questions that Doug and I both have, along with others, is how did the title track “Crying Song” and another Roger Waters, Pink Floyd track “Cymbaline” get on this album?

Doug speculates that it could have been from Hubert Laws or Bob James. I think it was Herbie Mann. I have no proof that hypothesis but it’s worth considering, starting with Pink Floyd.

In the early years, Floyds live sets were often fluid, as well as “The Embryo”, by 1969 the band were also using tracks they’d originally recorded for the soundtrack of the 1969 film “More” by debut new wave director Barbet Schroeder. “Cymbaline” especially was integrated into the highly ambitious live show that the band continued to develop through 1971. The live show was called “The Man and the Journey” included into a length suite that also included numbers from their earlier albums. “Cymbaline” was described as “the first expression of Roger Waters’ disillusionment with the music business[6]Music Legends Magazine, Pink Floyd Special Edition, 2021.

The film “More” from which the tracks “Crying Song” and “Cymbaline” by Waters had come, was premiered at the 7th New York Film festival, held 17-days from September 16th to October 2nd 1969, at the Lincon Center in New York City. It seems much more likely Herbie Mann would have attended one or more of these than either Laws or Bob James. Did Taylor attend, we don’t know.

As Doug notes, the reception of both the film and soundtrack album was to be polite, less than enthusiastic. Rick Wright, co-founder of Pink Floyd, had said though that the soundtrack was a good way for the band to earn money without touring.

Cash Box magazine – VOL. XXXI – NUMBER 38/April 18, 1970

Floyd, Let It Be

The early Pink Floyd producer was Norman “Hurricane” Smith[7]https://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/mar/11/obituaries.mainsection[8]https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/07/arts/music/07smith.html. Smith had been an engineer for the Beatles up until the “Revolver” album. He was then promoted to a house producer for EMI in London. Pink Floyd were one of the first acts Smith signed. He produced the group’s second hit single See Emily Play in 1967 and its first four albums. Smith was responsible for the ‘Floyd transition from the Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd to the Dave Gilmor/Roger Waters era ‘Floyd. Norman Smith produced the ‘Floyd track “The Embryo, previously discussed. Smith also produced British groups Pretty Things and Barclay James Harvest.

In his retrospective, Doug also offers the likely opinion on how “Let It Be” came to Hubert Laws album, and this is where Norman Smith enters stage left.

A final thought on “Let it Be” before, well, letting it be: In November 1969, the American singer and pianist Buddy Greco recorded a version of “Let it Be” in Memphis with the same Memphis Boys of Laws’ version, for a single that was issued by Scepter in April 1970.

Doug Payne – Sound Insights SOUND INSIGHTS: Rediscovery: Hubert Laws – “Crying Song” (dougpayne.blogspot.com)

By his own admission, Smith before joining EMI had been a massive jazz fan and struggling to make a living as a jazz musician[9]https://www.discogs.com/artist/10276921-The-Bobby-Arnold-Sextette. Smith had played trumpet in a traditional jazz band in the 1950s and was an accomplished pianist, and drummer. He was also inspired by and friends with Buddy Greco. Norman Smith died in 2008, age 85. Herbie Mann died in 2003, age 73.

There is no evidence that Herbie Mann knew Norman Smith or was at the film premiere or any of these concerts, equally, there is no evidence he wasn’t.

It’s more than likely Norman Smith went to one of the many shows in the BBC Jazz 625 series, we do know that Jimmy Smith performed on the series in 1964 and another London performance in 1967 tour which included the Hamburg performance that yielded the live album “Incredible! Jimmy Smith”. Creed Taylor was in London for both performances. Of course, Smith hadn’t been with the Beatles since 1965, so maybe it’s time to let it be.

This is one of many dead ends I’ve been down, hundreds of searches. If you have not read Doug’s piece on the album, read it now. He is more than likely right and I’m just grasping at straws, or flutes.

As I said, “there are still questions that need to be answered, but those answers will likely remain unknown.” Put another way, we don’t know, what we don’t know.

STONE FLUTE — Herbie Mann — Embryo — SD520

Here is a truly outstanding LP featuring flute player extraordinaire Herbie Mann and a host of fine musicians including bassist Ron Carter. With the assistance of some string instrumentation, the Mann sound ex- cels on original material such as “Paradise Beach” and “Miss Free Spirit,” as well as on the haunting song “In Tangier” and Lennon- McCartney’s “Flying.” Quite a remarkable ^ album, and one which could do very well saleswise, so watch it carefully.

Or as Herbie Mann said “I did the whole session under the influence”.

10/25/2022 See also updates to “Hubert Laws – Quiet, Confident, Accomplished“.
11/1/2022 Minor rewrite and a couple of date corrections from Doug Payne

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