I have almost the entire CTI/KUDU catalog on a USB hard drive in the car. It’s almost time to replace those old lossy versions with the original CD copies I’ve bought, or the re-engineered, re-ripped versions I’ve worked on over the last 5-years. Many of them date from the “CTI on CD” re-issues in the late 1980’s[1]https://www.discogs.com/label/444653-The-Original-CTI-Recordings-Digitally-Remastered-For-Compact-Disc, some from the 1997 re-issue push and mostly the compilation albums from the 2000’s.

CTI on CD’s

A&M Audio Master Plus Series

In the mid-late 1980’s, A&M would also reissue a number of Creed Taylor produced, CTI A&M imprint recordings on CD. While many of these were only issued in Japan, some like George Benson’s “The Other Side of Abbey Road“, were issued inn the USA. Important note is that this series was the only place to find albums like Nat Adderly “You, Baby” and Tamba 4 “We and the Sea” on CD.

When the series first launched[2]Audio Master Plus Series Label | Releases | Discogs, it was for exotically remastered vinyl albums. Again a small number of unique releases, including the only copy of Milton Nascimento “Courage” I’ve come across on Vinyl and as far as I’m aware, hasn’t been reissued on vinyl since then, although it did later make it to CD, very, very briefly.

REISSUE MANIA: For Sheer Volume,
It Looks Like the Biggest Year

In July 1990, Derk Richardson wrote “Fifteen years ago, the jazz vaults of most major record companies were virtual morgues, where the legends of America’s classical music lay in suspended animation.”

The piece was announcing the plundering the pyramids by Columbia to launch a series of the Contemporary Jazz Masters series, marketed under the slogan “The Tradition Continues.” Along with the album series, Columbia would also issue a set “Best Of” compilations from CTI. These would include of Hubert Laws, Stanley Turrentine, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Paul Desmond, and Esther Phillips. Given the broad range of artists that were on CTI/KUDU, including George Benson, Bob James, Patti Austin, Milt Jackson etc. What this hinted at though were the contractual issues with reissues, not just the technical and remastering challenges.

By 1990, Creed Taylor was back recording, producing and releasing original music for the first time on CD. Many of the early releases were based off a new digital recording technique and equipment, by Rudy Van Gelder. The recordings were initially for laserdiscs, but when these faded after the initial 6-release deal[3]Happy Birthday Creed Taylor! – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), a number of CD only releases were made, ending with Steve Laury’s self-produced 1995 “Vineland Dreams“, that was executive produced by Ron Smith, a New York realtor and property developer.

Seven years later, in 1997, the second real effort to re-issue the CTI back catalog happened, lead by re-issue producer and former CTI Employee Didier Deutsch. The series would be known as “The CTI Catalogue Re-Launch Series”[4]https://www.discogs.com/label/838464-The-CTI-Catalogue-Re-Launch-Series, they would include some of the albums not available in the first reissue series.

Legacy will reissue 10 jazz titles first released by CTI Records between 1970 and 1977 Sept. 2. The reissues will coincide with the release of “CTI Records: Birth Of The Groove,” a budget priced sampler

Billboard August 16th, 1997 P13

At least in the December 13th, 1997 issue of Billboard, according to Jim Macnie’s Jazz Blue Notes column, things were not going great. It’s hard to know as the article says what’s behind this, and certainly it wasn’t lack of effort. Almost the entire catalog is now available digitally either CD and/or streaming. There are holdouts but many of those are subject to legal/contractual reasons. For example, the entire Bob James CTI catalog moved with Bob to Columbia, as part of his legal/buyout package.

What’s your favorite CTI/KUDU re-issue, be as specific as possible, see below for mine.

STAY THE COURSE: It’s been three months since Epic/Legacy reissued 10 key titles from the CTI catalog, which it administers. But those 90 days haven’t produced the kind of marketplace response the imprint had
hoped for, and Legacy is a bit mystified. The bulk of the discs are by major artists, including Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, and Milt Jackson, and the production value of the new editions, both in terms of
packaging and sound, is the sharpest it’s ever been. Wrong titles? Wrong time? What do you do when consumers shrug?

“Keep plugging,” says Seth Rothstein, Legacy’s director of jazz marketing. “We’re not selling crazy loads of them, but we are going to follow up the initial batch. We knew it would be kind of tough at the
start: The chronology of CTI as a reissued label hasn’t been that great. The stuff had been dormant for a long time and if not dormant, not reissued very well. So what we went for was a comprehensive, attention-getting relaunch of the catalog. We’re proud of it.”

Though the music is wholly jazz, there was a pop production value to the CTI sound; many of the titles recorded in the early 1970s by original label owner Creed Taylor have a glossy façade and funky bottom. This was a flash point for jazz purists, who remained dubious of the approach. “I think many of the records have aged with grace.” offers Rothstein, “or at least they’re able to be looked upon in a different context these days. The good records have stayed very good. The bad records stayed bad. There’s a vibe at work these days, one that accounts for both substance and kitschiness. Some CTI [titles]fall into both categories. In the mix of things we released, we tried to pick the top titles.”

The campaign continues into the first or second quarter of 1998, when such titles as Hubbard’s “Red Clay” and “Skydive” are scheduled. “We’re certainly not going to put out all130 some odd records,” says Rothstein,
“but a real core of them will see the light.” The discs were produced for reissue by Didier Deutsch.

Billboard Magazine April 19th, 1997 P100.

At least as of writing(Oct. 2021), there was one more remaster series on 2010, which I’ll cover separately. Now, it’s unlikely we’ll see another CTI on CD, or anything else physical release. In reality, I’d like to start now on a epic 75th anniversary box set. Vinyl sized album gatefold sleeves. The vinyl albums would include a digital physical format with a digital copy of each album, and all the compilations, maybe it could include SACD versions, where available?

Otherwise those releases that are available, are now available via most streaming platforms. A Once great label, famed for it’s gatefold sleeves, with award winning artistic covers, and studio pictures, now reduced to a stream of bits, with a 640×640 jpeg.

The image used to illustrate this post is in fact from the 2003 Compilation CD, “CTI: The Master Collection Vol. 2″[5]https://www.discogs.com/release/492711-Various-The-Soul-Jazz-Legacy-The-Master-Collection-Volume-2, release by Sony UK. Both this and Volume 1. were compiled by Pete Young formerly of Capital Radio and Jazz FM in the UK. I never worked with or for Pete, but his Soul Cellar radio show was epic (no pun intended).

5 Replies to “On This Day: Stay The Course”

  1. Thank you Mark for all your work on this website. It’s very much appreciated along with Doug Payne’s site and blog and Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s regular Creed Taylor-related posts on Instagram.

    I’ve been very impressed with the sound of the Japanese King Records CTI Supreme Collection of Blu Spec CTI/Kudu releases and even more impressed with the 192kHz/24bit downloads from E-Onkyo. The latter do not seem to be available anymore and the former are disappearing fast. There are or were 80 CDs released and I think a similar number of HiRes downloads. Thanks to a Japanese friend who helped with translation and an old thread on Audiophile Style it seems that both were mastered by Akira Ando of King Records from 1/4 inch tapes sent to Japan by CTI in the 70s. They are flat transfers with no EQ or compression. They sound quite different to earlier CD issues (most of which I have and enjoy) and maybe closer to the original vinyl. The big difference however is a much wider soundstage and (particularly with the downloads) a lot more detail at both ends. Hubert Laws’ Morning Star for example sounds spectacular on the download.

    The downside with the CDs is minimal information on the CD insert (some notes in Japanese) and certainly nothing that approaches the earlier reissues, and there were no digital booklets with the downloads. There are also no bonus tracks. The CDs are very cheap – £7 or $9 plus shipping – from CD Japan but the downloads were very expensive – $28-30 – which could be why nobody sells them anymore.

    1. John, thanks for the fantastic comment and detail. I wasn’t aware of the downloads at all, apart from the downloads that were available through the former CTIJAZZ/CTIRECORDS websites back 20-years ago. Do you have any more details on the Japanese donwloads website?

      Every now and again I get offered Japanese master tapes. Recently I was offered a pair of Jimmy Smith tapes but they wanted $1500, and they were just mixed down release masters, effectively 2-track track stereo, you can’t do much with the except as you note, EQ, Compression and levels.

      I’ve been waiting for some interesting CTI records/CD’s to clear customs in LA, hopefully they’ll be here this week. ++Mark.

  2. Hello Mark
    The only place they seem to be available is on the E-Onkyo Japanese site – https://www.e-onkyo.com/search/search.aspx?label_id=211013-03 – but as you’ll see there are licensing restrictions for the UK and the US and the non-Japan website doesn’t seem to work. I’m sure that there was some kind of workaround I used when I bought my copies but unfortunately I can’t remember what it was! CDJapan still have quite a few of the CTI Supreme CDs. I played the Hubbard Keep Your Soul Together earlier this evening and it sounded great. They ship really quickly and cheaply but there’s always the dreaded duties and taxes on top.
    There are also two videos in Japanese on YouTube where presumably they talk in great detail about the mastering. You also get a few tantalising glimpses of tape boxes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTdllKMUO6Y https://youtu.be/c7BRaSxlZJQ
    Looking forward to hearing about what’s clearing customs.

    1. I suspect it duties and taxes that are holding mine up.

      Thanks for these, I have a way to get Japanese voice translated and put into text, I’ll see if those videos include anything interesting. I’ll also have a poke around and find out what I can about the licensing and e-onkyo downloads.

      As a bonus for making the comments, have a look at https://ctirecords.com – John and Blake Taylor have started going through a large garage archive… none of the artists pages need a password.

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