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OK, well perhaps not on this day, but certainly in March 1978, 44-years ago, Hank Crawford and David Matthews were in Electric Lady Studios on W 8th Street in New York City, laying down the final tracks for the last Kudu album, Hank Crawford’s “Cajun Sunrise”.

In this post I’ll take a look at the context around the album, so of the unique features of it, and unless David Matthews comes through with some answers, raise questions I can only speculate on.

The album was never released on CD in the US, meaning it’s not typically available on streaming services. I did find a version on Apple Music[1]‎Cajun Sunrise by Hank Crawford on Apple Music. For vinyl lovers, there is at least one new/sealed copy on ebay[2]HANK CRAWFORD – CAJUN SUNRISE LP VINYL (1979 KUDU) SEALED COPY | eBay, and it may be for sale in the iTunes store(buyer beware!).

Here is a fair-use mix containing 30-second samples of the tracks in album order(I’d be interested to know if readers find this useful? Leave a comment below or “contact us“. I get emails from time to time to tell me this service or that service isn’t available, or the tracks are not available in your country. I’m advised I can post samples under fair-use doctrine, as the website, and tracks are for information and not-for-profit.).

Cajun Sunrise – Fair Use Mix of 30-second samples only – Hank Crawford

CAJUN SUNRISE[3]Hank Crawford – Cajun Sunrise | Releases | Discogs
Hank Crawford

KUDU KU-39
Released: April 1979
Electric Lady Studios, New York City: February and March, 1978
Collective personnel inc. Randy Brecker (tp); Fred Wesley (tb); Hank Crawford (as); Ronnie Cuber (bs); Cliff Carter, Steve Robbins (key); Hiram Bullock, Joe Caro (g); Cliff Morris (banjo); Will Lee (el-b); Steve Gadd (d); Sue Evans (perc); David Matthews (arr).

Producer: Creed Taylor
Engineer: David Palmer.
Assistant Engineer: Joel Cohn.
Cover Photo: White Gate
Design:
Sibbi Chalawick
Mastered: Rudy Van Gelder

Tracklist
Side-A
What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life
I Don’t Want No Happy Songs
New York’s One Soulful City
Take This Job And Shove It

Side-B
Just The Way You Are
Daytime Friends
Evergreen (From “A Star Is Born”)
Cajun Sunrise
Total Time: 37:06

On This Day: Cajun Sunrise

Take This Job And Shove It?

The album was Hank’s 7th as a leader for Creed. As I noted in an earlier post[4]Happy Born Day: Hank Crawford – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), Hank had the habit of staying for 7-years or 7-albums, before moving on. In this case, CTI was in the midst of financial re-organization, and would soon start laying off staff, Jerry Wagner, had taken over as president of CTI, and the company would file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy reorganization in December[5]CTI Enters Chapter XI Bankruptcy – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), it’s possible that the last track on Side-A was more than just tongue-in-cheek.

It’s worth pointing out that CTI wasn’t the only Jazz label in trouble around then, in the next year, CTI, GRP and the owners of Janus Records also went broke; as did Capricorn Records who had launched the Allman Brothers to national success in the early ’70s. By the end of 1979, even the mighty A&M, who 10-years earlier were distributers for Creed’s CTI imprint, had handed their distribution to RCA. Disco and rock were kings. CTI would limp along to live again once their multi-year Motown lawsuit ended.

Hank Sings!

Apart from being the last album to be release by Kudu, apart from some later odd-ball releases, what makes this album unique is that Hank Crawford sings on it. It’s hard to know if this was his idea, or Matthews. It was unlikely to have come from Creed. Former CTI star George Benson had gone on to have big hits, famously singing and scatting for his albums, “Breezin” and “In Flight“, Creed was famously not a fan of Benson singing, as Benson told anyone who’d listen for the next few years.

In 1956, while still studying as a music major at Tennessee State University, Crawford was lead in a band called Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings[6]Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings | Discography | Discogs and among their recordings was a 45 called “Christene“, released on the Rhythm & Range label as catalogue number 45-101.

The track was included on the 2004 CD “Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970[7]Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970 | Discogs. In 2005, the only time Hank ever sang before his “Cajun Sunrise“, the compilation album won the GRAMMY for “Best Historical Album”. In the post Grammys publicity Hank was interviewed both locally in Nashville and a nationally syndicated column. For 18-months in 2004/2005 the album was a feature exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“At that time we didn’t have a singer in the band. Somebody had to, so I said, ‘I’ll try,’ because I had experience singing around Memphis in Baptist churches. It was a long shot, but I did it, and (frankly) I’m surprised this thing is
getting attention now.”

Friday. April 22. 2005 I memphis playbook – Bill Ellis, The Commercial Playbook.

Dave Matthews I assume picked out the backing singers, Lani Groves had done a number of CTI and Kudu albums including Esther Phillips, Johnny Hammond, and Hubert Laws; Ullanda McCullough had sung with Groves, as well as Patti Austin, and was on a number of big disco hits around that time, including Chic. Vivian Cherry had also sung on Matthew’s album and with Patti Austin.

Crawford’s somewhat laidback, easy vocals are complimented by the tight backing vocals, handclaps and Matthews arrangements.

Creed And White Gate

Crawford’s album is one of many that carry the credit “Photography by White Gate”. For many years it was not well known who was behind White Gate. However, it was well known that Creed carried a camera often in the seventies and beyond.

As CTI started to struggle with their Motown distribution contract, as noted, they started to cut budgets and corners. The “White Gate” nomenclature first appeared on the 1976 self-titled Seawind album, for the striking blue cover featuring a mansion. Creed didn’t produce the Seawind album, it was a bought-in master by Harvey Mason. While the Seawind cover photograph is an homage to Pete Turner, the cover of “Cajun Sunrise” is more a tribute to Chuck Stewart, longtime CTI people and studio photographer. I actually think it’s one of Creed’s better photographs.

White Gate was/is the name where the Taylor family estate/farm is in Virginia, and where Creed was born.

The Electric Lady Studios

Electric Lady Studios rather than Van Gelder’s was the studio used for all the late vintage 1970’s CTI and Kudu albums. Matthews had recorded his “Dune” album there in 1977, and all the top east coast funk and disco albums were recording there including Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards benchmark disco album “Chic” had been recorded there a few months earlier, as was Idris Muhammad’s Kudu album “Boogie To The Top“, which was cut in December 1977.

Immediately before recording Crawfords album, Matthews had been in Belgium with Taylor recording the seminal Nina Simone “Baltimore” album which was also mixed at Electric Lady around the same time and released in May 1978.

There would be a would be a 5-month CTI recording hiatus until August 1978 for Patti Austin’s “Live At The Bottom Line” and both Crawford and Austin’s albums wouldn’t get distributed until early 1979.

At the time of writing, Discogs[8]https://www.discogs.com/forum/thread/933836 has 1978 as the release date for most of the releases. This is incorrect. Almost all the labels, reviews, and most books from that time indicate it wasn’t released until April 1979. This is confirmed by Cash Box magazine

CTI Records, while still reorganizing under Chapter XI of the bankruptcy laws, is becoming visible in the marketplace again. Last December, the progressive jazz label released a George Benson LP called “Space” (recorded in 1976), and it has begun to ship new product by Art Farmer and Jim Hall, Patti Austin, and Hank Crawford.

Between May and December of last year, CTI did not ship any product, due to financial and legal difficulties. The legal problems stemmed from a suit that CTI instituted against Motown Records in 1976. Motown at that time distributed half of CTI’s catalog (as well as half of Kudu, a subsidiary label) through independent distributors, while CTI directed the marketing of the other titles. CTI wanted to get out of the Motown arrangement because, according to CTI chairman Cred Taylor, an audit had revealed irregularities in Motown’s accounting of royalties. In addition, he said, it was “an incompatible marketing situation.”

Cash Box Magazine, February 24th, 1979 – P14

Reception

By 1978 the jazz critics had already established their opinions of Creed’s output. As I said in an earlier post about Hank[9]Happy Born Day: Hank Crawford – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), he suffered as much, if not more than most by critical comparison to his work before CT. I wrote then and very much believe they were missing the point, especially by 1978 when disco was rampant, there was no money for jazz in small clubs, they were all closing.

It’s easy to dislike the songs on which Hank sings, but even on tracks like the Matthews penned “I Don’t Want No Happy Songs“, which is perhaps the most anemic, has solid sax and guitar solos. “New York’s One Soulful City“, another Matthews track, is for me the best track on the album, easily the most solid, see’s Hank in good form and has a solid beat ala Matthews earlier work, but also piano reminiscent of Bob James. Side-2 opens with a cover of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are“, Crawford here does as well, if not better than Phill Woods played alto sax on the original, thankfully Crawford doesn’t break into song. The inclusion of “Just The Way You Are” is a good indication that Creed was involved, the Billy Joel original had peaked at #3 on the Billboard chart just a month before, as with “Evergreen” by Barbara Streisand’s #1 a year before. At 5:57 on the album, the Matthews penned title track gives Crawford plenty of room to stretch out and he does.

Yeah, it’s an odd-ball album, especially with the inclusion of “Take This Job And Shove It”, but hey I’ve played it quite a few times while writing this, and I like it.

Crawford is no singer – he attempts a few vocals here – but he can certainly make his alto sax sing. Tunes such as “Just The Way You Are,” “Evergreen” and the title track bring out his best. Charts by Dave Matthews and a typical cast of New York session heavies make for fine listening all around. A certain bet for the Cash Box Jazz Chart.

Cash Box Magazine P18, April 28th, 1979.

Crawford is perhaps best known for his supple alto saxophone work, but on his latest album he takes a stab at becoming a vocalist as well with some satisfying results. The charming ballad, “What a Difference You’ve Made In My Life,” is the highlight. He also tackles “Just The Way You Are.”

Record World, P67, April 14th, 1979

Bonus Content

With no album to promote, and no contract to speak of, Crawford found himself back with Ray Charles at the 12th Montreux Jazz Festival in June of 1978. It wasn’t an ordinary Charles performance though. See Dizzy Gillespie (tp), Hank Crawford & David Newman (sax), George Duvivier (cb), Kenny Burrell (guit), Mickey Roker (bat), Esther Phillips (vocal) in this youtube video. An hour of great jazz.

00:00 Blues Jam in F
09:19 How Can You Get Out
15:54 Georgia On My Mind
23:11 Autumn Leaves
32:00 Willow Weep For Me
41:22 Hallelujah I Love Her So
44:38 Stormy Monday
53:25 God Bless The Child
1:02:04 What’d I Say (?)

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