CTI RECORDS HISTORY
"I am enormously impressed with Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, of course. It's partly because of the fantastic success they've achieved in four years. But it's primarily because their approach to the whole recording business has shown such remarkable selectivity and creative conviction."
"I have a wonderful working relationship with Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert at A&M. When I want to do something, I simply call them and it gets done. No channels, no obstacles to worry about. Also what I like about A&M is that the name means so much now and yet the album catalog is small enough so that my packages get the proper attention."--Creed Taylor, Record World June 10, 1967 and October 21, 1967"
Herb Alpert wanted A&M Records to have a jazz record label, specifically Creed Taylor's label. At the time, Taylor's manager was Clarence Avant. The deal was negotiated by Avant and Jerry Moss. In 1967, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss offered Creed Taylor $1 million over five years to bring his CTI Records to A&M. Taylor joined A&M on June 1, 1967. The manufacturing and distribution deal began in November 1967 and lasted until January 1970 when Taylor took his label independent. CTI was A&M's first affiliate and its original foray into jazz. While affiliated with A&M Records, CTI produced 28 albums and released 27 of them. The self-titled Hubert Laws album was never released on A&M, however, one of his singles was the first release by CTI records when Taylor took the label independent in 1970. The rarest CTI recording is the third album from Kai Winding and J. J. Johnson, Stonebone, released in limited quantity only in Japan.
"Creed Taylor was my absolute favorite jazz producer. Period. He had something magical. He knew how to take an artist and get the most out of them."--Herb Alpert in Creed Taylor: The Music Came First documentary
Prior to joining, A&M, CTI was under Verve Records and Impulse Records. Artist Wes Montgomery signed with CTI when it was affiliated with Verve Records and the team of Kai Winding and J. J. Johnson were with CTI during its time at Impulse Records.
Taylor told Record World that his deal with A&M gave him total control of artists on the label roster and the label's releases. Although CTI was completely separate from A&M except for promotion and distribution, having both labels logos on the jacket confused many people.
CTI operated out of New York City. A&M's Harold Childs was sent to New York to manage promotion and sales for CTI.
Artists who recorded on CTI in 1967 were Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Herbie Mann. In 1968, Nat Adderley, George Benson, Artie Butler, Paul Desmond, Tamiko Jones, Wes Montgomery, Milton Nascimento, Tamba 4, Walter Wanderley, Kai Winding and J. J. Johnson were in the studio for CTI. Quincy Jones was the only new artist in 1969.
Signed Richard Barbary in 1968.
George Benson was signed to CTI in 1968. As Benson tells the story, CTI/A&M artist Wes Montgomery told Herb Alpert that George was going to be the next great jazz guitarist and that A&M should sign him. Alpert passed the word to Creed Taylor who signed Benson to CTI. Benson's Shape Of Things to Come album was recorded after Wes Montgomery's death.
The final artist signing during the A&M pact was Deodato in late 1968. Deodato did not release an album with ties to A&M.
CTI recordings were distinctive. Taylor chose to surround the artist with an orchestra. Don Sebesky created most of the arrangements for the label and every session featured some of jazz's finest players--Ron Carter appeared on nearly every recording and Herbie Hancock was frequently on piano.
Rudy Van Gelder engineered the recordings. Van Gelder was one of the best jazz engineers and had his own studio in New Jersey.
Each record was packaged in a heavy cardboard gatefold cover coated in cellulose to reduce glare and dog-earring. The cover art was instantly recognizable with an innovative Pete Turner photo framed in a white border on coated paper.Sam Antupit designed all the album covers. The artist's name and title of the album were set in bold black Helvetica type in two lines across the top. The inside of the gatefold contained detailed session information and song notes by prominent music journalists.
Essentially, CTI was known for its greats: producer, engineer, arrangers and artists plus attention to every detail from recording through packaging.
A&M assigned the original CTI Records stock numbers in its SP 3000 series. CTI's original albums were SP 3001 through SP 3032, except SP 3029 and SP 3030 that were assigned A&M jazz artists. (A&M continued to use SP 3000 series for its own jazz releases through 1973. The last recording was SP 3047, the first Love, Togetherness, Devotion (L.T.D.) album.)
After CTI became independent, A&M retained control of the CTI albums recorded for it. In 1984, A&M reissued 18 titles from CTI as its Audio Master Plus (AM+) series. A&M created half-speed masters that it pressed on audiophile quality Dye Compound Vinyl; placed them in polyurethane inner sleeves, and replaced the coated gatefold covers with slick single album covers. George Benson's I Got a Woman and Some Blues album, recorded in 1969, was first released as part of the AM+ series. A&M created two commercial samplers for its AM+ series. Sampler SP 3021 included only one non-CTI track on the sampler, Gato Barbieri's "Europa" from his A&M album Fire and Passion. The original AM+ series were vinyl recordings. A few years later, A&M revived the concept of Audio Master Plus placing the logo and words on its CDs regardless of musical genre.
In 1988, A&M revisited the CTI catalog when it made 12 titles available on CD in its A&M Jazz Series (CD 0800 series). The original CDs of CTI products were packaged in trifold digipaks. These were small printings that were taken out of print quickly. The A&M Jazz Series also included recordings from A&M's main catalog and its Horizon Records jazz imprint. There were two A&M Jazz Heritage Series promotional samplers created to support this line of CDs in stores and on the radio.
In 1970, Wes Montgomery became the only artist whose CTI work was included in A&M Records' Greatest Hits series (SP 4247). It was originally converted to CD in the A&M Jazz Series in 1988. In 1996, A&M reissued the CD in the A&M Backlot Series. The disc was digitally remastered from the original tapes and included five unreleased tracks, and A&M gave it new cover art (31454 0519). As of this writing, it remains the only CTI album released by A&M in its Backlot series.
In 2000, A&M, now part of the Universal Music Group, reissued four of the CTI recordings on CD by Paul Desmond, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Quincy Jones and Tamba 4.
Whitburn, Joel. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Albums 1955 - 1996. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc., 1996.
Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Singles 1955 - 1999. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc., 2000.
Whitburn, Joel. Top Adult Contemporary Singles 1961 - 2001. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc., 2002.
Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits 1942-2004. New York: Billboard Books, 2006.
Whitburn, Joel. Top R&B Albums 1965-1998, Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc., 1999.
Clarence Avant video on Artists House Music website.
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences