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’shttps://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 launchedAudio 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 dealHappy 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”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 samplerBillboard 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,Billboard Magazine April 19th, 1997 P100.
“but a real core of them will see the light.” The discs were produced for reissue by Didier Deutsch.
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″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).