Creed Taylor, Influential Jazz Producer And Impulse! Founder, Dead At 93

Creed Taylor, Influential Jazz Producer And Impulse! Founder, Dead At 93

Creed Taylor, the massively influential jazz producer and label head, has died. Impulse! Records, one of the record labels founded by Taylor, announced his death on their social media accounts Tuesday, writing, “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. 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, second from left in the above photo, was 93.

Taylor was born and raised in Pearisburg, Virginia, and graduated from Duke University in 1951. Two years in the Marines were followed by one more at Duke for graduate studies. A longtime jazz fanatic who’d chosen Duke in part due to the school’s jazz band, he headed to New York to become a record producer despite a lack of formal training. He talked his way into an A&R job with Bethlehem Records, where he recorded Charles Mingus and other legends. After leaving Bethlehem for ABC-Paramount in 1956, he founded Impulse! as an ABC-Paramount subsidiary in 1960. He signed John Coltrane to the label and oversaw a number of major releases blurring the lines between jazz and pop.

Taylor left Impulse! a year after founding it, though the label continues to be a vital force in jazz to this day. At his new label home Verve, he played a key role in solidifying Brazilian jazz and bossa nova in the jazz mainstream via songs like Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s “The Girl From Ipanema.” He also produced albums for titans like Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans. In the late ’60s, Taylor worked at A&M Records and founded CTI Records (Creed Taylor Inc.), which had become its own independent company by the end of the decade. The label struck a balance between creative prowess and commercial success, releasing music by a huge list of talents including George Benson, Nina Simone, and Herbie Hancock and helping to define the sound of jazz in the 1970s and ’80s. He won numerous Grammys and continued to oversee various tours and reissues well into the 21st century.

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