Milt Jackson: Sunflower (1972) CTI

Selection: Sunflower (Hubbard)


Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, flugelhorn) Milt Jackson (vibes) Herbie Hancock (piano) Jay Berliner (guitar) Ron Carter (bass) Billy Cobham (drums)

Don Sebesky (arranger, conductor) : Romeo Penque (alto flute, English horn, oboe) Phil Bodner (flute, alto flute, piccolo, English horn) George Marge (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto flute, English horn) Max Ellen, Paul Gershman, Emanuel Green, Charles Libove, Joe Malin, David Nadien, Gene Orloff, Elliot Rosoff, Irving Spice (violin) Charles McCracken, George Ricci, Alan Shulman (cello) Margaret Ross (harp)  Ralph MacDonald (percussion)

Recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 12 & 13, 1972


Creed Taylor’s CTI is not a label I have followed, but after a few encouraging encounters with early 1970’s Hubbard titles, I decided to take the plunge. It is not all good, but it is good enough and has a lot to offer, at least selectively

The formula with Creed Taylor’s early 70’s CTI is a core group of familiar artists such as Hubbard, Hancock, Carter, a smattering of new kids on the block,  Billy Cobham fusion drummer or up and coming Jack DeJohnette . Some titles introducing electric guitarists like George Benson (good, not yet Mr Smooth Jazz) and Joe Beck (clumsy fusion rock to my ear, which has not worn at all well)  Later, funk became more predominant, like Deodata, and a plague of flautists, but the transition to the early ’70s is a good journey.

Sunflower  may claim to be a Milt Jackson album, but trust me, it’s a Freddie Hubbard album. Freddie and Herbie dominate the charts, while Milt Jackson moves away from the sparse chamber-jazz MJQ vibe to integrate with the new decade  players, much more in the Bobby Hutcherson manner, colouring and accompanying.

Herbie flips between acoustic piano to electric piano, confirming acoustic is the keyboard of choice, where he sparkles. Carter seems mostly electric bass, but it flows well. Hubbard is the saviour. Warm, vibrant fat tone, vulnerable tremulous vibrato, leading the melodic lines over Milt Jackson’s shimmering vibes, a delight.

Billy Cobham is an exciting addition to the roster of  jazz/fusion drummers, well acquitting himself on this title. I recall seeing him live in London in the early ’70s.  Opening to a darkened stage , spots suddenly  pierced through his double bass drums, illuminating the auditorium. A mounting thunderous crescendo built up, rolls across tuned tom toms, cross-rhythms, cymbal crashes, exploding into the opening bars of the first number. Phew! Throughout the set he maintained the momentum, not so much swinging as Blakey, but a more muscular, always there, pushing, accents, fills and rolls in any spaces.

Creed Taylor’s partner in crime, arranger Don Sebesky,  adds a stimulus package for the employment of string and woodwind players – violins, cellos, harp, clarinet, piccolo, oboe, french horn, anything you can blow or pluck (no Weinstein jokes, please) .The orchestral arrangements add a bit of texture in the background, in no way as intrusive as I feared, and could have been omitted completely with little detriment to the music, but that is how it comes.  Any piccolo players out there feeling slighted, I apologize. For the size of your flute.

Vinyl:  CTI 6024 VAN GELDER

How Rudy  got the massed Sebesky orchestra into Englewood Cliffs, who knows. Perhaps the core instrumental front line was recorded one session, the massed blowers and string pluckers dubbed on after the event. Since their part was scored, no spontaneous improvisation required, we are getting close to elevator music, or Hollywood’s cloying  Antony and Cleopatra schmaltz.  Still, it sounds good overall, and the stereo breathes well on its soundstage.

Cover Design : Pete Turner, photographer, born 1934 died September 18, 2017.

A selection of striking Turner covers for Impulse, Verve, CTI , no doubt others,  a lustrous laminate sheen, deep blacks and chiaroscuro lighting, some with eye-catching, umm, eyes. Hubbard, Tjader, Farrell, Nelson, Jackson, Desmond, all the zeitgeist of the early ’70s.


Collector’s Corner

Song title: People Make The World Go Round. What makes the world go around? Certainly not people, nor love, nor money. It is gravitational momentum. Until such time as some force affects it to slow or accelerate, the world spins on its axis, because it always has.

There are a lot of CTI’s to explore. Some will come up again shortly for sure. I’ve just dipped my toe in – any favourites, recommendations welcome.


What Happened?  This Post was fired off prematurely before it was finalised, apologies.  We all make mistakes, that is why they put rubber on the end of pencils. I put it down to a very liquid Sunday family  lunch. It might have been the couple of bottles of Veneto Chardonnay, or the Irish Coffee to finish or the complementary limoncello, that did it, possibly all three.




25 thoughts on “Milt Jackson: Sunflower (1972) CTI

  1. Studio Trieste. Jim Hall, Hubert Laws and Chet Baker etc.
    A little cheesy and they turn All Blues into Bolero…kinda.
    Not a favourite.

  2. Why…excusing ourselves for listening CTI records ? Can you love it, and in the same time have a listen to something made by let’s say Joe Henderson or Theo Parrish ? Yes you can.

  3. Will probably never get over the pretty slick CTI sound, despite of some great playing by Hubbard, Turrentine, Farrell. The only one regularly on the turntable (figures, I sold all seven of them except Farrell) is the early session of Fats Theus, Blackout. The only gritty CTI album! No genius, the soul jazz tenor saxophonist, but he cooks up a solid session with, yes, Grant Green, and, yes, Idris Muhammad. Bingo.

  4. The CTI recordings I have I am very fond of but equally I have heard some horrible elevator muzak from the same label. I think Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay and Straight Life are great records. To a lesser extent Sky Dive and Keep Your Soul Together [worth it for the cover!] are good as well imho. George Benson’s Beyond The Blue Horizon, Good King Bad and Body Talk are also well worth checking out. But I agree with other commentators Kenny Burrell’s God Bless The Child is a beauty! These records are a different beast to 50’s/ 60’s recordings but I enjoy the sound on some of these [eg Blue Horizon/ God Bless The Child] as much as I do the older records.

  5. I just finished reading Bob Porter’s Soul Jazz book. In it he states the Creed Taylor signed RVG to an exclusive contract that lasted from 1973-1976.

  6. You’ve started with the VERY best CTI LP. Other great ones though are Joe Farrell Moon Germs, Jim Hall Concierto, Stanley Turrentine Salt Song and Freddies Hubbard First Light. Another brilliant one on the sister Kudu Label is Idris Muhammad’s Power of Soul.

  7. I loved the CTI covers so much that Pete Turner was the first photographer that I interviewed with and worked for when I moved to NYC in the 80’s. He had massive sized prints on the walls of his studio of some of the CTI images……really impressive!

  8. I have about 20 CTI titles because I keep finding them in NM condition for a few dollars. While the music is a little uneven, the covers are worth the price alone. In addition to the albums mentioned, I’d add these gems: Jim Hall’s Concierto and All Blues by Ron Carter.

  9. Kenny Burrell’s God Bless the Child, Paul Desmond’s Skylark, Chet Baker’s She Was Too Good to Me, Hubbard’s Red Clay, and Joe Farrell’s Moon Germs are my picks. I haven’t heard the Bill Evans Montreux II but I’d imagine it’s good as well.

  10. Turrentine’s “Sugar” was/is always the one that flicked my bic. ‘Trane’s “Impressions” is a true cooker-not in the ‘Trane sense, but hope it opened other ears to Coltrane music. And of course, the title track…..And the cover? Whoa….although not what it appears to be!

  11. CTI – definately one of the father labels of smooth jazz….. in a good sense. Creed Taylor surely had an ear to the ground all over the 60’s and 70’s. I have quite a lot of CTI’s and I agree all is not top notch. Sometimes the grooves are repetetive and uninspiring but there is a lot of good stuff to be heard. A personal favourite is Deodatos first LP on CTI which is desert island music to me. And not just the hit song Also Sparach Zarathustra. The Turrentines are all great and his breathing tenor sax solo contribution to the Vera Cruz song (A Gilberto Album) just gets me every time…

  12. My first jazz LP was Stanley Turrentine’s “Don’t Mess With Mr. T” after hearing it on AM radio in the early 1970s. Yes, it’s absolutely in the CTI mold. Perhaps because it was my first, I still love it. A fair amount of reverb on his tenor, if I recall, but overall, I think Stan puts his heart into his playing…you may not like CTI, but it won’t be Stan’s fault on the LP. He comes through with some powerful playing. I’d recommend it if you enjoy Creed Taylor. Turrentine’s “Salt Song” isn’t nearly as listenable for me, but not a bad second choice if you like Mr. T on the CT.

    It took a few listens for me to get into “Gilberto (Astrud) with Turrentine.” Nicely recorded, not too much of the lush stuff in the background….if I recall correctly. Mostly an organist and guitarist with some percussion. When I try to get my non-jazz friends to listen, sometimes I start with CTI.

  13. It was artists like Deodato and Bob James on this label that helped lead me to the music that we all know as jazz. I agree that CTI is worth checking out although some of the albums I’ve taken a chance on have turned out way too schmaltzy for my ears…
    “God Bless the Child” by Kenny Burrell is my recommendation.

  14. i have three CTI albums, including this one. i’d happily trade all of them if the opportunity arose for a good swap. they aren’t bad, but i have nearly 1000 records, and i’d have to lose a lot to a fire to ever put this on before most of my other titles.

  15. Not sure if the contribution of Don Sebesky improves this album at all. This coming from someone who has grown to enjoy the Parker with strings lps in the past decade. It’s quite a good catalogue, possibly besting Blue Note in the same era that it peaks, with BN’s artistic decline as the 70s start. Milt Jackson though is strangely under rated in the jazz collector world, I love his sound and have never had to pay much to pick up mint 50’s and 60’s originals. Long may it continue, as its a massive discography he has featured on.

  16. I took a look at Grover Washington Jr’s ‘All The King”s Horses’ back at the start of 2014 I also quickly checked the earlier Inner City Blues at the same time. I can remember seeing him perform, in Manchester I think, before his untimely death. These days I prefer sparser recordings without orchestration but I retain a soft spot for Grover because I bought one of his albums when I was 16 and knew no better (the same does not apply to ELP- sold the few I had by them years ago).

  17. Damn — I was enjoying that until the strings came in! Herbie’s Rhodes is very pleasurable and personally i think Hub sounds terrific on flugelhorn… But those cheesy strings…

    A very much deserved shout out (as da kids say, I believe) to photographer Turner, whose picture for Lee Konitz’s MOTION is an all-time classic.

  18. I have an LP with an almost identical cast on one of the tracks – Milt Jackson & Hubert Laws ‘Goodbye’. Hancock, Hubbard and Cobham also play alongside Carter of course on the track SKJ.
    No strings but plenty of RVG sparkle!

  19. I’d love to see how the orchestra crammed in at Rudy’s too.

    I know CTI is not to everyone’s tastes, but I will always check them out, as they can usually be had cheap. I’d second Red Clay and I’d add of the Farrells, I think Outback might be a good place to start. I also really like Benson’s Beyond The Blue Horizon and the Turrentine/Jackson Cherry. Some of the Paul Desmond stuff is nice too, though it does veer more towards the smooth.

    I also like a lot of the pop, funk and gasp disco stuff that came later and was centered more on the Kudu subsidiary. Most people can safely ignore that stuff, but I’d say don’t sleep on Grover Washington Jr. His earlier albums aren’t that far removed from a lot of the “rare groove” Blue Note stuff and Mister Magic is a classic in the Blackbyrds area. I always feel had he come up about ten years earlier, he may have been more fondly remembered.

  20. this was the type of jazz we would play at university when the girls came around. They were not into Coltrane, Mingus etc…. I like quite a few CTI recording, Hubbard’s Red Clay, the Farrells recording are quite exiting and a few more…..nice clean sound….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s