Creed Taylor Passes at 93

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​Taylor’s label was a landmark in funk-influenced jazz-fusion.

(Photo: DownBeat Archives)

Legendary record producer and label head Creed Taylor died at age 93 on Aug. 22. He was well known for his foundational work at Impulse!, Verve and A&M Records, but primarily for founding Creed Taylor International — also known as CTI Records — in 1970. Through his label, Taylor coached some of the greatest talents in jazz during the ’70s into recording many hugely selling releases, archly controlling every aspect of CTI projects. He worked closely with engineer Rudy Van Gelder and photographer Pete Turner to make his albums uniform in sound and appearance. Taylor didn’t stop there, founding the more R&B-influenced label Kudu as a subsidiary to CTI.

In its day, CTI put out albums by Airto, Allan Holdsworth, Bob James, David Matthews, Deodato, Don Sebesky, Esther Phillips, Fats Theus, Freddie Hubbard, Gabor Szabo, George Benson, Grover Washington Jr., Hank Crawford, Hubert Laws, Idris Muhammed, Milt Jackson, Joe Farrell, Kenny Burrell, Lalo Schifrin, Randy Weston, Ron Carter, Stanley Turrentine and more. The label is a landmark in funk-influenced jazz-fusion.

Taylor was expert at assembling players for these releases. Interviewed by Wax Poetics magazine in 2009, Taylor described his methods: “Well, look, it’s like a baseball manager,” he said. “It’s a different aesthetic. But it’s similar.”

Unfortunately, by the end of the 1970s, CTI folded after having over-expanded into distribution. Yet its legacy, and Taylor’s, looms large in jazz. DB




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