Creed Taylor — the producer and executive who launched the legendary jazz labels Impulse! and CTI, and is credited with introducing bossa nova to the U.S. — died on Aug. 23, as confirmed in a statement from Verve Records. He was 93.
“For over 60 years, Creed Taylor expanded the horizons of jazz, from signing John Coltrane to Impulse! Records to introducing Bossa Nova music to the world via his work with Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz, and Astrud Gilberto,” the post reads. “He was a genius when it came to finding new and special music that would stay with listeners forever, and his signature was his personal stamp of approval. He will be missed greatly, and our sympathy goes out to his family.”
Taylor’s career spans over five decades. Between 1953 and the ’90s, he helped shape over 300 albums, working alongside such legendary artists as Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, João Gilberto and John Coltrane, among many others. Former colleagues and artists credit Taylor for helping catapult the commercial careers of several jazz musicians, mainly due to his encouragement for artists to work with outside artists and material.
Taylor was born in 1929 in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he spent his childhood switching through live radio broadcasts from the New York jazz club Birdland. By the time he was in high school, Taylor was playing trumpet and played in local jazz bands. He was also part of musical groups called the Five Dukes and the Duke Ambassadors while studying psychology at Duke University (naturally enough).
After graduation, Taylor arrived in New York City in 1954 with the goal of eventually becoming a record producer. He soon joined the jazz label Bethlehem Records, where he worked on several projects alongside Mann, Charlie Shavers, Jack Teagarden and Carmen McRae.
In 1956, Taylor left Bethlehem for the revamped ABC-Paramount Records, where he would steer the newly launched Impulse! label four years later. It was around this time that Taylor and his own group, The Creed Taylor Orchestra, released various records.
By 1961, Taylor had left Impulse! to join Verve’s A&R team where he signed Bill Evans and worked alongside Wes Montgomery. There, he enjoyed several of his greatest hits after producing the 1962 album “Jazz Samba” for Getz and Charlie Byrd. The album reached No. 1 in March 1963, becoming one of the few jazz albums to top the Billboard 200.
“Jazz Samba” served as an introduction to bossa nova for the U.S., thanks to the popular reputation of tracks like “Desafinado.” Later, he oversaw the creation of the Getz and Gilberto joint album, which won the Grammy for album of the year in 1965. The record’s lead single “The Girl From Ipanema” won for record of the year.
Taylor left Verve in 1966 to start his own imprint called CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) Records at A&M where he went on to produce albums by Nina Simone, Grover Washington Jr., George Benson and Stanley Turrentine, alongside many others.
The label ceased in 1978 due to legal and financial issues but its legacy was honored in 2009 when Taylor organized and performed with the CTI All-Stars 2009 — a European tour that brought its history full circle by blending the label’s most successful artists with young talent.