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Influential jazz record producer Creed Taylor has died

1964 Grammy Awards, left to right: Astrud Gilberto, Creed Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., Monica Getz
Creed Taylor
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Creed Taylor, Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0
1964 Grammy Awards, left to right: Astrud Gilberto, Creed Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., Monica Getz

With a successful career of over 50 years and more than 300 recordings, Creed Taylor is best known for producing early albums by Quincy Jones and Larry Coryell, and for his own label, CTI Records, which defined the sound of jazz in the 1970s. He died today at age 93.

Taylor grew up in rural Virginia, "two mountains" away from the folk music icons The Carter Family.

Taylor's introduction to jazz came from the radio. Late at night, he could pick up the live performances broadcast from the Birdland jazz club in New York City. Taylor played trumpet in college, inspired by hearing Harry James and Dizzy Gillespie.

Moving to New York City after his military service, Taylor started as the head of Artists and Repertoire at Bethlehem Records. He moved on to join ABC-Paramount, where he founded the subsidiary Impulse! — and signed saxophonist John Coltrane to the label.

Taylor also began to focus on record packaging, creating striking images for the album covers by working with artists and photographers. He started adding his signature to the album credits, like a painter signing his work.

Taylor then switched to Verve Records, and was a primary source for the wave of early 1960s Brazilian jazz into the U. S.

Shortly after hopping to A&M Records, Taylor formed his own CTI label, which became known for its distinctive sound—enhancing electric keyboards and other instruments with reverb and other mixing techniques—and its blending of jazz, soul and R&B. George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Patti Austin, Esther Phillips, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery all became associated with the 1970s "Cool Revolution" sound of CTI and its sub-label, Kudu.

Taylor reached out to the next generation of South American musicians who were exploring jazz-fusion: Airto Moreira, Lalo Schifrin, Eumir Deodato and Milton Nascimento, and recorded some of their best-selling albums on CTI.

Taylor's approach appealed to listeners who otherwise might not have come to appreciate jazz. That was his genius and his legacy.

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