Yesterday I posted about Sony's upcoming four-CD box set of remastered CTI tracks and the 20 CTI albums from King (Japan) newly remastered by original producer Creed Taylor and engineer Rudy Van Gelder. As I noted yesterday, there's really no comparison between the two different efforts: The King releases are way more spectacular on every level. Creed and Rudy restored more information and sonic detail than existed on the original vinyl LPs. And the technology behind the CDs themselves is a cut above. More on this in a minute. Today I want to focus on my favorite CDs in the new King CTI series. [Photo of Rudy Van Gelder by Hank O'Neal]
First, a quick note about my office stereo: All of my music is stored in my iTunes library on an external hard drive. The music leaves my computer on a coaxial cable that is hooked up to the headphones port. The music passes along this cable into a Benchmark DAC1 digital to analog converter [pictured]. From the converter, the music is fed into an Arcam receiver, emerging through a pair of B&W monitor speakers.
In short, the DAC1 converter displays the maximum amount of digital information, creating an exciting listening experience. When I rip CDs to my computer, I use the Apple Lossless Encoder format to ensure that the data that appears in my iTunes library is equal sonically to the CD from which it came.
The series succeeds as well as it does because King's project producer Susumu Morikawa [pictured] had the good sense to enlist Creed and Rudy to bring CTI's two-track masters into the digital age without losing any of the warmth and roundness of the original recordings. And what a job all three have done. Along the way a greater amount of information was exposed.
Here are my 11 favorites in the series...
Red Clay (1970). What makes this release special is that you finally can hear the trio behind Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson as clearly at the trumpeter and saxophonist. Herbie Hancock's Fender Rhodes, Ron Carter's bass and Lenny White's drums are now equal members of this early jazz-rock fusion classic. The riffs on Red Clay, Suite Sioux and the Intrepid Fox acquire a newfound energy. Go here.
Sugar (1970). This Stanley Turrentine jazz-soul masterpiece has new texture in the horns that didn't exist as brightly on the LP or CD releases. Turrentine's sax now has a snap on the high end, as does Freddie Hubbard's trumpet. Lonnie Liston Smith's electric piano and organ pop through the horns along with the vivid ting of Billy Kaye's cymbal. There were only three bossy, funky tracks on the original album—Sugar, Sunshine Alley and Impressions—and each is a standout now. Go here.
Stone Flower (1970). Antonio Carlos Jobim recorded for Creed several times while Creed was at A&M. On Jobim's first release for the CTI stand-alone label, you hear the raindrop like tenderness of this mature bossa nova effort as well as Urbie Green's warm, inviting trombone. When Jobim's piano comes in along with flutes, acoustic guitar or strings, it feels like the surf rushing in. A case in point is the distinct instrumentation on Children's Game. And dig Jobim's Fender Rhodes on Andorhina backed by a whispering Afuche percussion instrument. Go here.
Montreux II (1970). Recorded live in Switzerland, this Bill Evans album has always excited me. Evans played so beautifully on this concert recording, and it marks one of the last recordings of his romantic period before moving on to a more percussive expressionism. The album includes heroic renditions of Alfie, How My Heart Sings and Peri's Scope. The big news here on the remaster is the detail in Eddie Gomez's bass and drummer Marty Morell's brushwork, particularly in the first half of Peri's Scope. You listen to this remastering and realize that this truly was one of Evans' great trios. Go here.
Gilberto with Turrentine (1971). Creed, of course, was the first to record Astrud Gilberto in 1963 on Getz/Gilberto, with the singer knocking The Girl From Ipanema out of the park. Here, Gilberto sings songs like Burt Bacharach's Wanting Things from Promises, Promises and For All We Know from the film Lovers and Other Strangers, which she sings in Portuguese. But what's special here is how Gilberto's tissue-soft voice now interacts with the strings, guitars and a massive array of instruments. Go here.
Rite of Spring (1971). I never listened carefully to this one when the album came out—but now, Hubert Laws' jazz-classical work sounds so woody and warm. From Pavane, Rite of Spring and Syrinx to the first and second movements of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Laws floats feather-like among Bob James' electric piano, Airto's shimmering percussion, Ron Carter's pulsating bass and other instrumentalists. To me, this remastering was a revelation and a happy re-discovery. Go here.
Prelude (1972). Eumir Deodato's first album for CTI as a leader was a massive hit for the label. Dig the congas and horns now on the swelling Also Sprach Zarathustra. Or Deodato's firm Fender Rhodes on tender gems like Spirit of Summer and Carly & Carole. The strings now sound warm and sweeping while the electric piano and Hubert Laws' flute on Deodato's lightly Latin tribute to Carly Simon and Carole King reverberates. Go here.
Deodato 2 (1973). I never liked The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin, but the instrumental rendition on this album changes the song's original intent for the better. There also are early pre-disco dance numbers here like Skyscrapers and Super Strut that are alive. Again, Rudy's remastering teases out the electronic texture of Deodato's Fender Rhodes and Billy Cobham's drums, capturing all of the nuances. For a child of the 1970s, it's terrific to hear the electric piano this way again. Go here.
Baltimore (1978). Nina Simone is backed by more than 30 musicians and eight background singers. Despite the orchestra's size, you hear Simone front and center with her coffee-rich voice. But instead of the instrumentation sounding faint, as on previous CD releases, Simone is surrounded by them but is never buried. My Father, Hall and Oates' Rich Girl and If You Pray Right are all electrifying and uplifting. Go here.
Big Blues (1978). Art Farmer and Jim Hall recorded together frequently during their careers. On this remastering, you get to hear every instrument on the session. Particularly exciting are drummer Steve Gadd and vibist Mike Mainieri. You also get to hear the precious top of Farmer's horn without losing any detail in the other instruments. Go here.
Fuse One (1980). This post-disco funk album was led by bassist Stanley Clarke, who puts on quite a show here. You can hear every snap of his bass and tenor bass. There's also great tenor sax work by Joe Farrell. This is a sleeper album that all but kicked off the 1980s adult-contemporary sound. Go here.
JazzWax note: The other nine CTI albums in the new King series are Milt Jackson's Sunflower, Jim Hall's Concierto, Ron Carter's All Blues and Spanish Blue, Hubert Laws' Chicago Theme, Lalo Schifrin's Towering Tacata, Airto's Fingers, Patti Austin's End of a Rainbow and George Benson's In Concert at Carnegie Hall.
And here's promotional material from Amazon describing the technology that went into these remastered King CDs:
"Japanese-only SHM pressings. Features Rudy Van Gelder remastering. The SHM-CD [Super High Material CD] format features enhanced audio quality through the use of a special polycarbonate plastic. Using a process developed by JVC and Universal Music Japan discovered through the joint companies' research into LCD display manufacturing, SHM-CDs feature improved transparency on the data side of the disc, allowing for more accurate reading of CD data by the CD player laser head. SHM-CD format CDs are fully compatible with standard CD players."
JazzWax tracks: The King CTI releases remastered by Creed Taylor and Rudy Van Gelder aren't cheap. Each costs between $43 and $48 in the U.S. You'll find these releases at Amazon and other online retailers. Just type in the name of the artist + the name of the CD + King. For example, "Stanley Turrentine + Sugar + King."