In 1973, flush with cash from the success of records like Deodato’s 2001, producer Creed Taylor and composer/arranger Don Sebesky envisioned a different concept album for CTI, devising a double-length recording to pay tribute to the stars that lifted sales for the label. Unlike their previous efforts, “Giant Box” (CTI/Masterworks Jazz) was a monster in style, spirit and length (the opening track, a 13 minute+ mash up of Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and John McLaughlin’s “Birds Of Fire” epitomized CTI’s overwrought but potent signature tunes.) The giants in this box include Paul Desmond, Hubert Laws (“Fly/Circles”), Milt Jackson (“Vocalese”), Freddie Hubbard and Airto—and each has shining moments. Young lions like Grover Washington, Jr., Bob James, George Benson, singers Jackie and Roy, and of course, “house” bassist Ron Carter and drummers Billy Cobham and Jack DeJohnette round out the all-star cast. Previously available only as costly import-only CD, the recording has been reissued under Sony’s CTI/Jazz Masterworks series and is available domestically for the first time since its original release.
The album remains a qualified success, spotlighted by the sweet, floating alto of Paul Desmond on “Song To A Seagull” to Sebesky’s own “Free As A Bird,” with its tight horn arrangements, a swinging straight-ahead solo by Bob James and gutsy blowing by Grover Washington. Hey, there’s even Sebesky’s own endearing Chet Baker-like vocal on “Fly/Circle.” While Jimmy Webb’s ode-to-joy, “Psalm 150,” and the super funky, electrified “Semi-Tough” show their age, all the artists play impeccably within their allotted solo space. Sure, Freddie Hubbard and George Benson always sounded better on their own dates for CTI, but this giant box of sound captures both an aesthetic and an attitude that holds up mighty well. (7 tracks; 59:38 minutes) www.CTIMasterworks.com
Labels: Billy Cobham, Bob James, Creed Taylor, CTI, Don Sebesky, Grover Washington, Hubert Laws, Jack DeJohnette, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond