CTI All-Stars: Red Clay
California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium (CTI 40690)
Johnny Hammond (electric piano), Airto (percussion).
Composed by Freddie Hubbard.
Recorded: live in Hollywood, CA, July 18, 1971
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
While too much of CTI's output is proto-Smooth Jazz, the listenable portion of the discography is chockfull of bluesy funk performed at the highest level. With this lineup, the album was bound to be a classic. On "Red Clay," Freddie Hubbard shows off his jaw-dropping technique during a chopsy trumpet workout (with his ubiquitous touch of narcissism), while the ever-soulful Stanley Turrentine stays closer to the blues.
Five years prior to singing himself to pop stardom via "This Masquerade," it was George Benson's phenomenal guitar playing that was turning heads. After listening to his blistering choruses here, you may find yourself wondering if there was anything this man couldn't do with six strings. Carter's unaccompanied bass solo is a bit of a buzz killer considering the energy generated by the previous three soloists and the intense drum work of Billy Cobham, but overall the CTI All-Stars assure us that jazz was indeed a living and breathing entity in the 1970s. The huge, lively crowd audible on this recording proves that when packaged appropriately, jazz was still commercially viable and possibly more accessible than ever.
Reviewer: Matt Leskovic