This is a harmless dig at Wikipedia contributors, for an oft-overlooked Paul Desmond album. It’s also the first time I’ve looked at the CTI recordings of Paul Desmond. Desmond’s career was, some would argue, plagued by being the saxophonist in Dave Brubeck.

I enjoy seeing everyone’s #ctirecords and #creedtaylor posts on Instagram, given the size of the CTI/KUDU catalogues, I’m always pleased to see the music is still so appreciated. I especially like pictures that show your media set-ups or your views on the album or the artists, so keep it up!

Just the other day an album cover flew by while I was scrolling, claiming to be a CTI Records release, that I’d never seen before. I’m sure there are obscure pressings from other countries I’ve never seen, I even chased down a copy of one Brazilian album misprint and wrote about it.

Surprised to see such a claim for the Desmond album, I replied with a comment to the Instagram post asking how the account had decided it was the last A&M CTI recording? Answer, Wikipedia. In the somewhat confusing CTI Records entry, there is a section that lists the A&M CTI 3000 series records. There right at the end was this [1]Retrieved 10th January, 2024.

If you don’t have the album, and don’t know about it, it is widely available on streaming platforms, along with the other Desmond albums produced by Creed Taylor around this time. Select your preferred streaming platform and press play and read on. It’s not clear why, at least from Instagram mentions it’s not widely known?

The Desmond “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, SP 3032 was not produced by Creed; it was in fact produced by Don Sebesky. It didn’t carry the CTI logo on the sleeve or on the labels. Apart from Sebesky, it does include three major recording artists from the CTI era: Herbie Hancock on electric piano; Ron Carter on string bass; and Airto Moriera on drums.

The eagle-eyed among you will also spot that the Wikipedia entry is missing 2020 Record Store Day pressing of “Stonebone”, that also needs fixing [2]I fixed both of these issues on the afternoon of Saturday 13th January.

It’s unclear at this point if Paul Desmond had been signed to A&M or CTI in 1968. He would go on to record three leader albums during what should have been the original 3-year contract period between the two companies. This suggests that Desmond was signed to A&M, and after Taylor split with A&M, Desmond still owed A&M one final album. Taylor would produce only the first two of these albums.

A&M had launched a marketing campaign in October 1968 “Creed Taylor Month” through November 15th. Announced as promotions that month included pretty much the entire current and future roster of A&M/CTI including Paul Desmond, Natt Adderly, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Tamba 4, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Mann, Tamiko Jones, Artie Butler, J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding, Eumir Deodato, Milton Nascimento and Marcos Valle, Richard Barbary, and the Soul Flutes.

Clipping from Record World, August 17th, 1968.

The “Summertime” started during “Creed Taylor Month” and finished the day after Christmas day [3]https://www.dougpayne.com/ctid3k.htm#summertime. The album was released in early April and would enter the Billboard Jazz chart on April 26th, 1969 at #18. A few weeks later, despite stagnating on the Jazz chart, a single from the album, a cover of the Beatles “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” would enter the Billboard “easy listening Top 40”, for yes there was such a thing.

This would give “Summertime” the bump it needed and it would rise to #8 in the Jazz charts in June 1968. It would eventually spend 16 weeks on the chart.

The second album produced by Taylor was “From The Hot Afternoon” – named after a track written by Milton Nascimento, whose album for CTI, “Courage,” had started recording at the Van Gelder Studio, in between the penultimate and December 26th final session for Desmond’s “Summertime”.

In total, six of the album’s ten tracks were written or co-written by Nascimento. The only track that was on both Nascimento and Desmond’s album was “Catavento.” The sessions for “From The Hot Afternoon” were on 24-25th of June, with two more sessions on 13-14th of August 196 [4]https://www.dougpayne.com/ctid3k.htm#fromthehotafternoon.

Taylor was known to spend up to a month working on the post recording, mixing, and editing. A process he’d go through with Rudy Van Gelder and, from time to time, the artist. It’s not clear why, but “Hot Afternoon” was not released until the first week of December 1969 and didn’t make the Jazz charts until mid-January. “Hot Afternoon” didn’t fair as well “Summertime”, only spending 6-weeks on the Jazz chart in 1970. It was pretty much one of the last from the Taylor A&M/CTI period that carried the full A&M/CTI packaging.

Desmond would tell raconteur Gene Lees (music critic, biographer, lyricist, and journalist) he wanted to “sound like a dry martini”.

If Desmond had indeed been signed to A&M on a three album deal, then BOTW would be the third album and his farewell to A&M.

While at first take BOTW seems like the template for a Creed Taylor cross-over album, the implementation seems more like an attempt to emulate Taylor’s success with the George Benson cover of the Beatles “Abbey Road”. The 10-track album was produced, arranged and “directed” by Don Sebesky.

Herbie Hancock: Electric Piano; Ron Carter: String Bass; Jerry Jemott: Fender Bass; Airto Moriera: Drums; Bill Lavorgna: Drums; Sam Brown: Guitar; Gene Bertomcinni: Guitar.

Originally released as A&M SP 3032 (1969) – A&M Records was expanding into various musical genres, from pop-jazz with Quincy Jones and Paul Desmond to harder sounds with Lee Michaels and Humble Pie. In addition to its association with the Taylor Jazz sound, the label gained recognition for its roster including Joe Cocker, the Carpenters, Brasil 66, and Cat Stevens, showcasing a diverse range of musical styles and contributing to its influence in the industry.

The same week Desmond’s BOTW was released, the Carpenters’ “Close To You” had been certified by the RIAA for a gold disk. The “ugly sister” of the Antonio Carlos Jobim pair of “Tide” and “Wave”, Tide was also released, as SP 3031. Unlike BOTW, “Tide” carried the Creed Taylor moniker and was dressed in the established A&M/CTI white cover with Turner picture but minus the CTI logo.

Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond here takes a whole set of Paul Simon tunes, and aided by a soft rhythm gives them quite a workout. Desmond’s alto picks daintily at the title tune, “Mrs. Robinson”” and others, weaving a delicate improvisational web around them. The Approach plus the familiarity of the material should broaden the album’s appeal.

Billboard Magazine – 7th November, 1970 – P35

54 years later, this album as a whole doesn’t work for me. While some of the early tracks are nuanced and give Desmond room to play, too many of the later tracks overpower his “martini” sound. However, who knows?

What we do know is that it was considered at the time good enough for a Grammy nomination in the category “JAZZ PERFORMANCE – LARGE GROUP OR SOLOIST WITH LARGE GROUP”. Competition that year was fierce, label mate Quincy Jones was also nominated for “Gula Matari,” which Taylor produced but shared a hybrid jacket design halfway between an A&M/CTI design and the design of this album.

The Grammy awards for 1970 were a first; they were the first live TV awards spectacle, presented by Andy Williams and aired by ABC from the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles on March 16, 1971. Among those presenting was A&M head, Herb Alpert, which will have raised the level of expectation for the A&M artists. Awards eligibility was from November 2, 1969, to October 15, 1970.

For the first time, all the top-awards were awarded to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The duo had raised the hackles on the back of the industry’s cumulative neck in 1968 by winning the triple crown. At the 1970 awards, BOTW had the most nominations, seven almost bested by the Beatles six nominations for their final album, “Let It Be”. It would be A&M’s artists the Carpenters that would beat both the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel to the “BEST CONTEMPORARY VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP” with “Close To You”.

In his category, in the way these things seem to go, it wasn’t surprising that Desmond’s BOTW would not be in with a chance, a sort of shadow punishment for all BOTW’s other success. That wasn’t the case though, the award was won by Miles Davis, with his historic, category-defining album “Bitches Brew”. “Bitches Brew” had been nominated in three other categories, including “BEST INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT” and “BEST INSTRUMENTAL COMPOSITION” but Jazz Performance was the only winner [5]The Grammys: For The Record by Thomas O’Neil – Penguin Books, 1993 – ISBN 01401.66572.

Desmond would be nominated twice more in his career, to bring his nominations to six, he never made the top step. As well as the three albums pressed, marketed and released by A&M, Desmond would return to record again with Taylor in 1974 at CTI.

What do you think of Desmond’s BOTW? Leave a comment, let me know!

Updates: 1/13/2024 – added note re-Wikipedia updates

References

References
1 Retrieved 10th January, 2024
2 I fixed both of these issues on the afternoon of Saturday 13th January
3 https://www.dougpayne.com/ctid3k.htm#summertime
4 https://www.dougpayne.com/ctid3k.htm#fromthehotafternoon
5 The Grammys: For The Record by Thomas O’Neil – Penguin Books, 1993 – ISBN 01401.66572

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