With Sony celebrating the 40th Anniversary of CTI Records by reissuing an even dozen newly re-mastered CTI classics, a deluxe four-disc retrospective of the label, a near complete issue of a historic CTI All Stars concert and six newly-minted CTI LPs, it’s fair to wonder whether some of CTI’s long-neglected legacy will ever see the light of day on CD in America.
Since the late 1980s, Sony has made several attempts to reintroduce CTI’s analog heritage into the digital age, often overlapping itself along the way - with promises of newer, better sound or never-before released bonus tracks. It usually means another copy of Deodato’s Prelude (1972) or Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay (1970), both inarguably historic and pivotal in CTI’s history, becomes available when the previous version is still readily accessible.
Why doesn’t Sony release more of the CTI catalog that hasn’t yet seen the light of day on CD? There are several reasons. The folks assigned to the project are required to consider the sales potential of any release. Sony is hardly a boutique label concerned with artistry. It’s a business; a big business. Profit and loss must be considered.
Names like Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine and Antonio Carlos Jobim are guaranteed to sell records. Maybe not like another pointless Michael Jackson anthology. But these things are virtually assured to sell well enough by jazz expectations.
Another major label consideration is often akin to an “if-then” threat. The argument goes like this: if the releases we’ve chosen to issue do well enough (note the various levels of subjectivity involved there), then we’ll release more just like them.
Sadly, this argument is almost always doomed to fail. Either the record company puts out more of the same old thing so that no one buys it (thus proving their theorem that there’s not enough interest) or they wait so long to hit some unreachable goal that they forget all about following it up with anything or justify their point that something just doesn’t sell. The latter has probably killed the continuation of each previous “CTI on CD” launch Sony has attempted.
There’s also a lot of subjectivity involved in the decision to release what gets released. I think Sony would probably endorse this theory. Formerly, the CTI catalog (and many of the releases in Sony’s Legacy division) was overseen by Didier Deutsch, who was once the publicity director for CTI. While there are few people with the knowledge of the catalog as Didier, most titles chosen for release were probably among his favorites and the ones he knew best (plus those too-obvious choices that would help his bosses at Sony recoup their investment in the music).
Most of the people in charge of the CTI catalog today were probably not even born when the music was made. But they know enough to bring in people who do know something about CTI.
There are probably a myriad of other issues which prevent Sony from considering certain CTI titles to issue (questionable ownership, litigation potential – particularly with artists and/or their estates, etc.). But it’s unlikely that Sony would ever make these sorts of concerns public.
While CTI fans like me are pleased to get whatever they can get on CD, it might be interesting to note those titles that have not yet found attention on American CD. This list does not include CTI-issued repackages or compilations consisting of music available on other CTI releases. It also does not include CDs of CTI albums that several smaller labels of American and European origin have licensed for CD release from Sony Music (in case that wasn't obvious enough, that's meant as a hint to any label out there interested in restoring any of the following albums to CD).
Kathy McCord - Kathy McCord (1970 – although the album was issued in full on the recent British compilation titled New Jersey to Woodstock)
Flow - Flow (1970)
Oklahoma Toad - Dave Frishberg (1970)
Black Out - Fats Theus (1970 – while this has been however legitimately reissued on domestically available vinyl in recent years, it has also never even been issued on CD in Japan)
Blue Moses - Randy Weston (1972)
Carnegie Hall - Hubert Laws (1973)
Mizrab - Gabor Szabo (1973)
Penny Arcade - Joe Farrell (1973 – also never issued on Japanese CD)
Rambler - Gabor Szabo (1974)
All Blues - Ron Carter (1974)
A Wilder Alias - Jackie Cain & Roy Kral (1974)
Upon This Rock - Joe Farrell (1974 – like Penny Arcade, never issued on Japanese CD either)
The Baddest Turrentine - Stanley Turrentine (1974 – never issued on Japanese CD)
The Sugar Man - Stanley Turrentine (1975 – like The Baddest Turrentine, never issued on Japanese CD either)
Canned Funk - Joe Farrell (1975 – like Penny Arcade and Upon This Rock, never issued on Japanese CD either)
The Chicago Theme - Hubert Laws (1975)
The Rape of El Morro - Don Sebesky (1975)
End of the Rainbow - Patti Austin (1976)
The Fox - Urbie Green (1976)
We Belong Together - John Blair (1977 – never issued on Japanese CD)
CTI Summer Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl Live One/Live Two/Live Three - CTI All-Stars (1977 – none of these three records is ever likely to be issued on CD in America)
Crawl Space - Art Farmer (1977)
Dune - David Matthews (1977)
Señor Blues - Urbie Green with Grover Washington, Jr. & Dave Matthews’ Big Band (1977)
Something You Got - Art Farmer with Yusef Lateef & Dave Matthews’ Big Band (1977)
Yama - Art Farmer with Joe Henderson (1979)
In A Temple Garden - Yusef Lateef (1979 – never issued on Japanese CD)
Art Farmer Live In Tokyo - Art Farmer meets Jackie McLean (1979 – this LP was never released in the US)
Studio Trieste - Chet Baker/Jim Hall/Hubert Laws (1982 – it may not be easy to determine who actually owns the American rights to this music but if it is not Sony, then it is unlikely that this will ever see American CD release)
Gershwin Carmichael Cats - Roland Hanna (1982 – same problem as Studio Trieste)
In My Life - Patti Austin (1983 – never issued on Japanese CD)
Pacific Fire - George Benson (1983 – this exceptional album, a personal favorite, contains outtakes from the 1975 Good King Bad sessions but Sony does not believe it retains the rights to this particular album and Creed Taylor was never very fond of the release, so it is unlikely this album will ever see the light of day on CD in America or Japan)
Creed Taylor launched the Greenestreet label in 1984, issuing several albums that, for the most part, have not been issued on CD: Claudio Roditi with Kenia’s Red on Red, Les McCann with Houston Person’s Road Warriors, Roger Kellaway with Houston Person’s Creation and Jack Wilkins’ Captain Blued (much of which found life on a later Jack Wilkins CTI CD). In Japan, these – and several other albums not issued in the US – were all issued by King Records on the CTI label. Very little of this music has ever appeared on Japanese CD.
Mama Wailer - Lonnie Smith (1971)
Wild Horses Rock Steady - Johnny Hammond (1972)
Help Me Make It Through The Night - Hank Crawford (1972)
The Prophet - Johnny Hammond (1973 – never on Japanese CD)
Forecast - Eric Gale (1973)
Performance - Esther Phillip (1974)
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing - Hank Crawford (1974 – never on Japanese CD)
Anything Goes - Ron Carter (1975)
I Hear A Symphony - Hank Crawford (1975)
For All We Know - Esther Phillips (1976)
Shoogie Wanna Boogie - David Matthews with Whirlwind (1976)
Hank Crawford’s Back - Hank Crawford (1976)
Turn This Mutha Out - Idris Muhammad (1977 – never on Japanese CD)
Tico Rico - Hank Crawford (1977 – a personal favorite, never issued on Japanese CD either)
Boogie to the Top - Idris Muhammad – like Turn This Mutha Out, never on Japanese CD either)
Cajun Sunrise - Hank Crawford (1978 – like Tico Rico, never issued on Japanese CD either)
CTI’s subsidiary labels have nearly been all but forgotten in the CD age, many in Japan too. On Salvation, there’s been no sign on CD of B.C.&M. Choir’s Hello Sunshine (1972), Airto’s Virgin Land (1974), The New York Jazz Quartet’s LP version of In Concert In Japan (1975) and three Roland Hanna LPs issued in Japan. And a temporary relationship with the Swedish Metronome label yielded three terrific Jayson Lindh records, none of which have seen CD release anywhere.