• Our Album of the Week features will return in June.

CTI Records: Series Introduction

As we start exploring the CTI Records catalog beyond the 3000 series, I wanted to give some details about CTI and its different series and affiliated labels.

Creed Taylor worked at Bethlehem Records producing jazz albums, then took a position with ABC Paramount. There, he convinced the label to start a jazz imprint: Impulse! Records, where he first applied his ideas of bold album jacket packaging that stood out from the competition and creating a strong label identity. He produced only a handful of albums before an opening at Verve Records came available (when the label was purchased from Norman Granz by MGM), and produced many legendary jazz and bossa nova albums during his time at the label.

This, of course, led to Taylor signing a million dollar contract with A&M to launch his own record label, Creed Taylor, Inc., better known as CTI. After about 30 albums, A&M and Taylor parted ways, and CTI continued from that point as an independent label.

Not too long after establishing CTI in 1970, Taylor expanded the CTI label family by first introducing the Kudu label in 1971, which would explore jazz that had more of a soul/funk/R&B style than those albums on the main CTI label. The short-lived Salvation Records label was formed to release gospel records but, after a single release and laying dormant for a couple of years, four more titles were released in the general CTI and Kudu style. An even smaller label, Three Brothers Records (named after Taylor's three sons, and an extension of Taylor's music publishing company of the same name), released only one album, a handful of singles, a 3-cassette box set in the 1980s, and a single CD in the 1990s.

CTI imploded as the 1970s wore on--when the label started distributing its own product, it ran into monetary issues. For a while, they distributed the albums through Motown Records. Following the bankruptcy of the label, Motown was given the Kudu label album masters, while Columbia took over the rest of the CTI masters. As of today, all of the masters are under the control of Sony/Legacy (except for Bob James, who negotiated to own his album masters to release on his own Tappan Zee label, and Grover Washington, Jr., whose Kudu recordings remained with Motown and are now administered by Verve Records/Universal Music).

Our Album of the Week series has already covered the 3000-series CTI records, and we've had a few scattered CTI album threads as well. To keep things more or less sequential, we'll cover each different series together in order if possible. Here is a quick guide to the CTI album series, more or less in sequential order (with the subsidiaries listed at the end).

  • 3000-series: A&M-distributed.
  • 1000-series: A five-album series intended to be pop/rock/R&B releases. CTI's first releases as an independent label.
  • 6000-series: The primary CTI series.
  • 7000-series: Continues the 6000 series, the change in numbering denoting the end of the Motown distribution deal. The sequence went: CTI 6068, 6069, 7070, 7071, 6072, 7073, 7074, and onward. CTI 7089 was the last in the 6000/7000 series.
  • 9000-series: Started in 1980 under CBS Records, discontinued after nine albums. CTI 9000 - 9010 skips CTI 9005, and the title originally scheduled for CTI 9001 was instead issued under the CBS catalog number JZ 36503 (Patti Austin's Body Language). Also, CTI 9000 was the US release of the Japan-only CTI 7087 (Art Farmer/Joe Henderson, Yama), and CTI 9004 was planned as a reissue of CTI 7084, but never was released (Nina Simone, Baltimore).
  • Two-fer series: CTX 2+2 and CTX 3+3. The latter was also issued as two CTI albums (CTI 6065 and 6066), the former was a CTI All-Stars live recording.
  • 8000-series: A late-1970s series of previously issued titles, CTI 8000 - 8031, with five of those numbers never being issued. A small number of the albums were retitled/repackaged when reissued (such as George Benson's Bad Benson being renamed Take Five, and Joe Beck's Beck on the Kudu label reissued as Beck & Sanborn). Most likely these were reissues after Columbia took over the catalog.
  • Kudu series: Kudu Records KU-01 to KU-39.
  • Salvation series: Salvation Records SAL 700 to SAL 704.
  • Three Brothers series: Three Brothers Records THB 2000 (Lou Christie self-titled LP), THB1-2-3 (three-cassette classical-themed box set), and TBM10001 (Duke Jones: Thunder Island).
That wraps it up. We'll have a thread for each album we cover, and for now, plan to run two series concurrently. The main body of CTI's albums will be featured in one series, with Kudu, Salvation and Three Brothers running in a series alongside it. Once the subsidiaries are completed, we may double up on CTI releases per week in order to speed things along.

Our first CTI Album of the Week is live now, and the first Kudu AotW will arrive tomorrow morning. AotWs will usually appear on the same days each week (Friday and Saturday). Each will have a handful of album details, a few purchasing links (Amazon, Qobuz, Discogs), and if we can locate it, a playlist of the complete album on YouTube, so visitors can easily listen to the album while reading the thread.
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