Various Artists

CTI Masters of the Keyboard

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In coming up with the sequence of tracks on CTI Masters of the Keyboard, former CTI staffer Didier C. Deutsch executed an imaginative end-run around the headliners of the CTI catalog in search of high-profile keyboard names. With the exception of Eumir Deodato's tracks, none of the selections here come from albums led by keyboardists -- not even those featuring Bob James, a bona fide CTI signee. Yet the picture that Deutsch paints is formidable, for producer Creed Taylor corraled many of the brightest luminaries of the '70s keyboard world on his albums -- and each had a big role to play in the tracks presented here. In any case, the Deodato picks aren't at all predictable, "Skyscrapers" and "Carly and Carole"; the latter has an especially graceful solo by the Brazilian arranger on Rhodes electric piano. James can be heard in a multiplicity of settings, backing Gabor Szabo on electric piano on "It's Going to Take Some Time," switching to acoustic on Stanley Turrentine's "Don't Mess With Mister T," and a rare straight-ahead solo on electric on Hubert Laws' "Moment's Notice." No compromises for Chick Corea on "November 68th" (from Joe Farrell's Outback album), who is heard locking horns with Elvin Jones and Airto Moreira. Deep in his space-cadet sextet mode, Herbie Hancock turns in a strong, hammering, electronically bent performance on "Hornets (Chicago Version)," which is in effect a solo track even though it comes from a joint concert album with Turrentine and Freddie Hubbard (both of whom are curiously absent even though Hancock's studio version featured solo horns). Keith Jarrett's melodic bent is in full, brilliant cry on the bossa nova "Love Should Be" (from Airto's "Free"), Dave Grusin makes funky use of mild phase shifting on Art Farmer's "Petite Belle," and Don Grolnick, a fairly unsung figure in this constellation, can be heard soloing competently on electric behind Laws on "I Had a Dream." The end result of all of this track shuffling is a very pleasing, engaging listen -- high-quality electric jazz made by experts -- and that's what ultimately counts.

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