Today, May 13th, 2020 marks Creed Taylor’s 91st birthday. Hopefully Creed is still well and keeping safe during the current pandemic.
I personally owe Creed a debt of gratitude for all the great music and musicians he enabled during his career. Creed is/was a controversial producer, and as Creed himself has said:
The critics, that’s what they get paid for, hassling me, and other people. If they didn’t have something to hassle, they’d have nothing to write about.Interview with Joyce Jones, WBAI Suga In My Bowl
Gil Evans made a statement out of the blue to me, once, and he’s been quoted since saying the same thing. “I don’t play jazz, I don’t write jazz, I write music of the times” and what we were doing, as far as I’m concerned, is music of the times. We had these great players, these great soloists and they needed context to put their soloistic abilities into.
Whatever people and artists thought of Creed’s music at the time, and some of the controversy that came towards the end of CTI Records, at the time, Creed’s vision and style helped a lot of jazz musicians through a transitional period. A period which bought in electronic instruments and mass audience events, where rock and pop musicians were earning more in a single night than even the best jazz musicians were earning per month.
Creed kept jazz music relevant through the use of great house arrangers like Don Sebesky, Bob James, and David Matthews and through rich, orchestra like, productions with modern, consistent, stylised marketing.
Both Taylor and his enabler, Rudy Van Gelder, kept up with cutting edge technology and were alway focussed in bringing the listener the best musical result.
When I was going through my collection of both hard and soft Taylor material for something to use to celebrate his birthday this year, I was tempted to use one of the small number of interviews he had given; possibly do a retrospective of the few press interview he’d given, but decided instead to use this opportunity to share the laserdisc movies that he’d made.
I don’t know where you were in 1990, I was back in the UK and busy recovering both my family and my finances from a somewhat manic and expensive sojourn to work in New York City for 4-years. My musical taste had moved on from the CTI seventies, left disco in a puddle of its own mess, and drowned in an ocean of yacht rock. I completely missed the launch of laserdiscs, not just the Creed Taylor ones. but laserdiscs entirely.
The CTI movies, came about as a result of venture funding following a $3.3 million jury award to CTI in 1988. The damages were assessed against Warner Bros. Records in a long running civil suit over contract agreements regarding George Benson. Also in the mix for CTI (the 3rd) were PolyGram with whom Taylor signed a worldwide distribution and licensing deal. The bulk of the funding came from CTI Wave, A Tokyo-based subsidiary of the Saison Group, At the time, Saison owned Intercontinental Hotels, department stores, a supermarket chain, Discoport Records, and the Wave Records retail chain.
They initially planned six audio/visual projects filmed using high-definition technology and available on laserdisc, videocassette(VHS?), CD, LP and cassette. Pioneer one of the originators of the laserdisc, and a dominant supplier of the players would issue the video-discs and PolyGram would handle the digitally recorded audio releases.
What follows are four of the known six video productions. Missing are the Devils Toothpick issued in 1993, and I know exists. Also the Charles Fambrough Blues At Bradleys also from 1993, which apparently exists but I’ve never seen a copy for sale. If you have either of them and would be open to some form of secured loan, or sale at a reasonable price get in touch.
Of the other four, Billboard said:
The first of the venture’s six planned audio/visual projects, called “Rhythmstick,” features 18 jazz acts, including Dizzy Gillespie, Art Farmer, Tito Puente, Bob Berg, Charlie Haden, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, John Scofield, and Phil Woods.Billboard Magazine, Page-75, November 24th, 1990.
Following “Rhythmstick” will be “Song Of The Sun” by Jim Beard, featuring contributions from Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, and Toots Thielemans. Also in the can are recently filmed Tokyo concerts by the CFI Super Band, which includes Randy Brecker, Jim Beard, Bob Berg, and Mark Redford. All of the planned projects have been or will be shot in hi-def and released in all formats.
Taylor was always reticent about publicizing himself over the music and musicians doesn’t officially appear in any of the films. I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Creed though in Larry Coryell’s Live From Bahia standing behind Larry, talking to Billy Cobham, resplendent in sun glasses and with his camera.
Without further ado, here are the first four films for your delectation. The sound quality is great, the video had to go through a conversion and upscaling process, before being mangled by Youtube’s compression algorithms.
Leave a comment below, what do you think of the films, the music etc. ? I’ll be posting an individual entry about each film in the coming months, it would be great to feature some reader feedack.