Since the end of the 1970s there has been no shortage of CTI compilations. Some have been assembled thematically -- by instrument, from guitar and keyboard to saxophone -- while others have focused on the label's biggest hits: both volumes of the Masters Collection
issued in 2002 and 2004, respectively, tried to grasp the entirety of the label's span from the late '60s on.
What sets Cool Heat
apart is that rather than rely on the label's earliest years when founder Creed Taylor concentrated on developing a cool and classy groove aesthetic, this set focuses on the post-1970 CTI, when jazz and elegant soul had wed themselves to funk. The beautiful thing about this collection -- besides its stellar sound -- is how it is curated aesthetically rather than chronologically -- it amounts to a killer CTI mixtape.
It begins with Deodato
's Rhodes-and-bass-driven version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and careers directly into Lalo Schifrin
's "Jaws," as if cinema were a prime motivating label M.O. -- given the iconic look of its artist photos and cover artwork, can that really be far from true? And whether it's the stately funk of Bob James
' "Westchester Lady" or the proto-disco of David Matthews
' "Shoogie Wanna Boogie," or Esther Phillips
' bumping number two Dance Chart remake of "What a Difference a Day Makes" (arranged by lead guitarist Joe Beck
), it's obvious that Taylor wanted to create a sound that could be played on the radio, at a party, or in a club. Other highlights from disc one include Hank Crawford
's sultry "Wildflower," Johnny Hammond
's "Breakout," and Patti Austin
's "Say You Love Me." Disc two looks backwards and forward as it opens with George Benson's "Supership" from 1975 -- the year before his breakthrough with Breezin'
. Nina Simone
delivers her iconic cover of Randy Newman
's "Baltimore" from 1978 with a stellar arrangement by Matthews
. Joe Farrell
kicks it with John McLaughlin's "Follow Your Heart" off his 1970 self-titled quartet set. There's also a lovely duet between McLaughlin and Benson on "Flute Song" from their duo album in 1976. We also get a couple of more mainstays, as no CTI collection could be representative without Freddie Hubbard
's "Red Clay" or Stanley Turrentine
's "Sugar." And yes, Kenny Burrell
is represented with "Be Yourself" from 1971's God Bless the Child
, as is Eric Gale
with his signature "Forecast" from 1973. Why the producers chose a second Deodato cut ("Superstrut") is strange considering what was left off (anything from Allan Holdsworth
's Velvet Darkness
, for instance, arguably the greatest guitar record ever to appear on the label). That caveat aside, closing the set with Esther Phillips' version of Gil Scott-Heron
's "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" is an excellent if provocative choice. This is a fantastic collection for those seeking to investigate CTI, and a great mix for those who are well aware of its magical recordings.