Creed Taylor

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Creed Taylor
CreedImage small.jpg
Taylor with Astrud Gilberto, Sammy Davis Jr., and Monica Getz (wife of Stan Getz) at the 1964 Grammy Awards
Born (1929-05-13) 13 May 1929 (age 92)
OccupationRecord producer, Record label founder
Musical career
Years active1955-1995
LabelsCTI Records, Bethlehem Records, ABC-Paramount, Impulse!, Verve, A&M Records
Associated actsAntonio Carlos Jobim, Eumir Deodato, João, Astrud Gilberto, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Gil Evans

Creed Taylor (born May 13, 1929) is an American record producer, best known for his work with CTI Records, which he founded in 1967. His career also included periods at Bethlehem Records, ABC-Paramount Records (including its jazz label, Impulse!), Verve, and A&M Records. In the 1960s, he signed bossa nova artists from Brazil to record in the US including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eumir Deodato, João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Airto Moreira.


Creed Taylor, trumpet, with Ed Beuluki, alto sax; Ken Horton, bass; Art Steuer, drums; Francis Farley, piano: The Five Dukes, 1950; courtesy

Early work[edit]

Taylor was born and spent his childhood in Pearisburg, Virginia, where he played trumpet in the high school marching band and symphony orchestra. Although he grew up surrounded by country music and bluegrass, he gravitated more toward the sounds of jazz, citing Dizzy Gillespie as a source of inspiration during his high school years. Taylor recalls spending many evenings beside a small radio, listening to Symphony Sid's live broadcasts from Birdland in New York City.[1]

After high school, Taylor completed an undergraduate degree in psychology from Duke University in 1951 while actively performing with the student jazz ensembles the Duke Ambassadors and the Five Dukes. Taylor credits Duke's strong tradition of student-led jazz ensembles, and Les Brown's association with Duke in particular, as initially drawing him to the university. As he recalls, "The reason I went to Duke was from hearing Les Brown and all the history of the bands who went through Duke. This was really a great jazz band, . . . and the book was handed down from one class to the next, you had to audition and all the best players who came to Duke got in the band. . . . I had a ball when I was there."[2] After graduating from Duke, Taylor spent two years in the Marines before returning to Duke for a year of graduate study.

The Bethlehem years[edit]

Shortly thereafter, Taylor relocated to New York City in order to pursue his dream of becoming a record producer. Although he had no formal training in record production, he recalls that his "mix of naivete and positive thinking" convinced him that he could succeed.[3] After arriving in NYC, Taylor approached another Duke University alum who was running Bethlehem Records. Taylor persuaded the label to allow him to record the vocalist Chris Connor with the trio of pianist Ellis Larkins. Due in part to the album's success, Taylor became head of artists and repertoire for Bethlehem, where he remained during its two most significant years, recording such artists as Oscar Pettiford, Ruby Braff, Carmen McRae, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Charlie Shavers, and the J.J. Johnson-Kai Winding Quintet.

The ABC-Paramount years[edit]

In 1956 Taylor left Bethlehem to join ABC-Paramount, where, four years later, he founded the subsidiary label Impulse!. Motivated by the idea of a label dedicated to tasteful, current jazz, Taylor worked with ABC-Paramount executive Harry Levine to advocate for the label, which he dubbed "The New Wave in Jazz". It was Taylor who signed John Coltrane to Impulse!, rather than Coltrane's better known producer at the label, Bob Thiele. Taylor's accomplishments during this period also included gaining immediate credibility for the label by releasing successful gate-fold albums by Ray Charles, Gil Evans, J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and Oliver Nelson. Taylor was sensitive to the importance of album cover design to visually attract people to the music, and he regularly hired photographers Pete Turner and Arnold Newman to create cover images. Taylor's successful Impulse! albums regularly blurred the genre-based lines between jazz and popular music, and his superb production values became the hallmark of the label.

The Verve years[edit]

Although he signed John Coltrane for Impulse! in 1960, Taylor left the following year to accept a job with Verve Records.[2] There he prominently introduced bossa nova to the US through recordings such as “The Girl from Ipanema” with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. Jobim, a prolific writer on both piano and guitar, had come up with numerous melodies based on the rhythm of the bossa nova. One such piece, "Desafinado", found its way into the repertoire of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (who intuitively recognized the connection to his genre), and caught the ear of jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd while he was on tour in Brazil.

Byrd returned to the States in 1961 armed with "Desafinado" and a cache of new Brazilian songs. The first person he rang up was jazz producer Creed Taylor. As Taylor recalls, "I went down to Brazil a few times and spent some time at Jobim's house and met all the players down there. Then of course after 'Desafinado' became a hit, Jobim wanted to come up and see what New York was like, so he came in to see me right off the bat. That started a long friendship and series of albums."

As Gene Lees puts it: "Creed Taylor was treating [bossa nova] with respect and dignity. Were it not for Creed Taylor, I am convinced, bossa nova and Brazilian music generally would have retreated into itself, gone back to Brazil . . . and become a quaint parochial phenomenon interesting to tourists, instead of the worldwide music and the tremendous influence on jazz itself that it in fact became."[4]

While at Verve, Taylor also produced recordings by Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Bill Evans, Cal Tjader, and others.

The A&M Years[edit]

Taylor began working at A&M Records in 1967 and formed his own label, CTI (Creed Taylor Inc.), in that same year. In 1968 he released albums by the late Wes Montgomery and singer Tamiko Jones as well as Soul Machine, sole album of Richard Barbary. A&M distributed CTI releases until 1969, when Taylor left A&M to establish CTI as an independent record company. Wes Montgomery joined Taylor at A&M, where he recorded his final three albums.

The CTI years[edit]

Taylor soon established CTI among the most successful jazz record companies of the 1970s, gaining notice for his ability to balance the artistic with the commercial. Artists who recorded for CTI during the 1970s included Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, Bob James, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Milt Jackson, Nina Simone, Paul Desmond, Art Farmer, Eumir Deodato, Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock, Joe Farrell, Airto Moreira, and Ron Carter. Taylor also formed other labels within CTI, including the Kudu label, which focused on soul-jazz recordings by Hank Crawford, Grover Washington Jr., Johnny Hammond, Idris Muhammad, Esther Phillips, and others[5]

Bert Gambini, a radio programmer in Buffalo, summarizes: "In evaluating CTI, I'm going to borrow the wisdom of Witold Rybczynski, the architectural historian. He felt there was no such thing as a timeless building. Certain structures were admired because they are specifically of their time. I think this too is the case with CTI jazz. This music screams of its era and that's the reason why it's so enjoyable. It's that temporal stamp that I interpret as an asset, not as a liability. Instead of Creed Taylor, think Glenn Miller for a moment. If you want to aurally represent an era like the early 1940s Swing era, is there any better representation than 'In The Mood' or 'String Of Pearls'? The same thing applies to Creed Taylor's CTI brand of jazz from 1970 to 1980".[6]

In 1974, Taylor faced financial problems caused by setting up his own network to distribute CTI labels; he made a new distribution deal with Motown. This, however, ended in litigation in 1977 with Taylor losing Grover Washington Jr., and the artist's Kudu recordings as part of the settlement to quit Motown. In separate litigation, Taylor lost the rights to Bob James's solo recordings for CTI. The label went into Chapter XI bankruptcy in late 1978 before Taylor reached a distribution deal with Columbia Records the following year, in return for the rights to the remaining master recordings.

Columbia oversaw various reissue programs of CTI's catalog material, including CD releases for the first time. Taylor attempted to buy back the rights to the master tapes in 1989, but the recordings remain with Columbia/Sony BMG with sporadic re-releases coordinated by Didier Deutsch and Arnaldo DeSouteiro. Taylor returned to record production in 1990 with new album releases on CTI, initially distributed through Polygram, and later by Mesa/Bluemoon. Among the artists he signed for CTI in the 90s were Larry Coryell, Jim Beard, Charles Fambrough, Ted Rosenthal, Jim Hall, Bill O'Connell, and Jurgen Friedrich.

In 2009, Taylor toured Europe with the CTI All Stars band. The first concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival was recorded and filmed for a CD/DVD/Blu-ray release, CTI All Stars At Montreux 2009, featuring Hubert Laws, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Randy Brecker, John McLaughlin, George Duke, Mark Egan, and special guest Jamie Cullum. The album was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder with cover art by Pete Turner. That same year, Taylor himself produced, for the first time, an extensive CTI reissue series on SHM-CD format, "The CTI + RVG" series, working for the last time with Van Gelder.

In 2010, Taylor once again put together the CTI All Stars for another tour, this time with Bryan Lynch replacing Randy Brecker. A video was filmed at the Burghausen Festival and was broadcast on German TV.


Taylor has won numerous Grammy Awards for his decades of production work. These include awards for: Focus (Stan Getz, 1961), "Desafinado" (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd, 1962), Conversations with Myself (Bill Evans, 1963), "The Girl from Ipanema" (Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto, 1964), "Willow Weep for Me" (Wes Montgomery, 1969), and "First Light" (Freddie Hubbard, 1972).[7]


  1. ^ Interview with Creed Taylor Archived 2011-10-26 at the Wayback Machine, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Slawecki, Chris M. (2004). "Creed Taylor, Incorporated: The AAJ Interview, Part 1-3". Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  3. ^ Creed Taylor Interview, 2008
  4. ^ CTI Website Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Creed Taylor Article
  6. ^ CTI Website
  7. ^ CTI Website Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine

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