Creed Taylor Death: The American Record Producer’s Life & Career
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Creed Bane Taylor V was an American record producer. He was born on May 13, 1929, and died on August 22, 2022. He was best known for his work with CTI Records, which he started in 1967. In the course of his career, he also worked at Bethlehem Records, ABC-Paramount Records (which had a jazz label called “Impulse! “), Verve, and A&M Records. In the 1960s, he got Brazilian bossa nova artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eumir Deodato, Joo Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Airto Moreira to record in the US.
Taylor was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. He grew up in Pearisburg, Virginia, where he played trumpet in the marching band and symphony orchestra at his high school. Even though he grew up around country and bluegrass music, he was more drawn to the sounds of jazz. He said that Dizzy Gillespie inspired him when he was in high school. Taylor remembers spending many nights in front of a small radio, listening to Symphony Sid‘s live broadcasts from New York City’s Birdland.
After high school, Taylor went to Duke University to get his bachelor’s degree in psychology. While he was there, he played with the student jazz groups the Duke Ambassadors and the Five Dukes. Taylor says that the strong tradition of student-led jazz ensembles at Duke and Les Brown’s connection to the school were what first drew him to the school.
As he thinks back, “I went to Duke because I had heard of Les Brown and all the bands that had played there in the past. This was a great jazz band, and the book was passed down from one class to the next. You had to audition to join, and the best players at Duke got in. I had a great time there.” Taylor spent two years in the Marines after he graduated from Duke. He then went back to Duke for a year to do graduate work.
The Time In Bethlehem
Soon after that, Taylor moved to New York City to follow his dream of becoming a record producer. Even though he had no formal training in record production, he remembers that his “mix of naivety and positive thinking” made him believe he could do well. When Taylor got to New York City, he talked to another Duke University graduate who ran Bethlehem Records.
Taylor talked the record company into letting him record singer Chris Connor with pianist Ellis Larkins’ trio. Due in part to the success of the album, Taylor became head of artists and repertoire for Bethlehem. He stayed there during its two most important years, recording artists like Oscar Pettiford, Ruby Braff, Carmen McRae, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Charlie Shavers, and the J.J. Johnson-Kai Winding Quintet.
The Era Of ABC/Paramount
Taylor left Bethlehem in 1956 to join ABC-Paramount, where he worked for four years before starting a subsidiary label called Impulse! Taylor was interested in the idea of a label for good, modern jazz, so he worked with ABC-Paramount executive Harry Levine to promote the idea. He called the label “The New Wave in Jazz.” Taylor, not Coltrane’s better-known producer at the label, Bob Thiele, was the one who signed him to Impulse! During this time, Taylor also did things like put out successful gatefold albums by Ray Charles, Gil Evans, J.J.
Johnson and Kai Winding, and Oliver Nelson, which gave the label instant credibility. Taylor knew how important it was for album covers to look good and get people interested in the music, so he often hired photographers Pete Turner and Arnold Newman to make cover photos. Taylor’s popular Impulse! albums often blurred the lines between jazz and pop music, and his excellent production became the label’s signature.
The Years of Verve
Taylor signed John Coltrane to Impulse! Records in 1960, but he left the label the next year to work for Verve Records. There, he brought bossa nova to the US in a big way through recordings like “The Girl from Ipanema,” which he made with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. As Taylor can remember, “I went to Brazil a few times and met all the players and spent some time at Jobim’s house. Then, when “Desafinado” became popular, Jobim wanted to come to New York to see what it was like, so he came to see me right away. That was the beginning of a long friendship and a bunch of albums.”
As Gene Lees puts it: “Creed Taylor was kind to bossa nova and treated it with respect. I’m sure that if it weren’t for Creed Taylor, bossa nova and Brazilian music in general would have turned inward, gone back to Brazil, and become a tourist attraction instead of a worldwide style that had a huge impact on jazz.”
Taylor also made records for Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Bill Evans, Cal Tjader, and others while he was at Verve.
Taylor went on a European tour with the CTI All-Stars band in 2009. CTI All Stars At Montreux 2009 is a CD/DVD/Blu-ray release of the first concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It features Hubert Laws, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Randy Brecker, John McLaughlin, George Duke, Mark Egan, and special guest Jamie Cullum. Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer for the album, and Pete Turner did the art for the cover. In the same year, Taylor and Van Gelder worked together for the last time on “The CTI + RVG” series, a large collection of CTI reissues on SHM-CD. Taylor produced the series himself.
In 2010, Taylor put together another tour with the CTI All Stars. This time, Bryan Lynch took the place of Randy Brecker. At the Burghausen Festival, a video was made and shown on German TV.
Taylor’s work as a producer over many years earned him a number of Grammy Awards. There are 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).
The Death Creed Taylor
Taylor died at the age of 93 on August 22, 2022. Taylor was in Winkelhaid, Germany, to see his family when he had a stroke on August 2. He was taken to a hospital in Nuremberg, which was close by, but he died there.
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