Various Artists

First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary

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At a time when the traditional "gatekeepers" of the record business seem to be giving way to a D.I.Y. free-for-all in the digital Internet era, the Universal Music Group (ironically through its Verve imprint) here boxes the first six LPs released by Impulse Records, then a newly formed jazz label, in 1961, all produced by initial label head Creed Taylor, who departed the company (for Verve, then part of rival MGM) just as the last of the six was coming out. Taylor, as annotator Ashley Kahn and Taylor himself make clear in the liner notes, was the auteur of these half-dozen albums, even if he didn't actually play on them. Unlike Blue Note or Prestige, Impulse was never a true independent; it was formed as a jazz subsidiary of ABC-Paramount to be Taylor's custom label, after he had demonstrated an ability to make commercially successful jazz records. And he did that with the first Impulse albums, particularly Ray Charles' Genius + Soul = Jazz, with its hit single "One Mint Julip." (The box set includes the first CD release of the mono mix actually heard on the 45 rpm single.) He also introduced some excellent straight-ahead jazz with the trombone collections The Great Kai & J.J. and Brand New, Swinging Together Again by Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson, and The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones. Progressive big-band jazz was heard on the Gil Evans Orchestra's Out of the Cool and Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. And Taylor's last album for Impulse was John Coltrane's first: Africa/Brass. (The only previously unreleased tracks on the box set are three brief rehearsal tidbits from before the Africa/Brass sessions.) All credit for the music itself redounds to the musicians, of course. But this collection poses the question whether the music would ever have been made if it hadn't been for visionary record executive/producers such as Creed Taylor (and Bob Thiele, who succeeded him at Impulse, not to mention Blue Note's Alfred Lion and Prestige's Bob Weinstock, among others). Certainly, it wouldn't have been made in the same way, and these albums demonstrate what a loss that might have been.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:13 Spotify
2 3:52 Spotify
3 4:31 Spotify
4 4:07 Spotify
5 3:37 Spotify
6 3:07 SpotifyAmazon
7 4:03 Spotify
8 4:05 SpotifyAmazon
9 5:12 SpotifyAmazon
10 3:09 SpotifyAmazon
11 3:25 Spotify
12 4:07 Spotify
13 4:07 Spotify
14 3:36 Spotify
15 2:56 Spotify
16 3:46 Spotify
17 3:14 Spotify
18 4:09 Spotify
19 4:02 Spotify
20 3:06
21 3:49
blue highlight denotes track pick