Creed Taylor revolutionized the respectability and popularity of jazz with CTI Records. In fact, some of the most significant jazz of the last half of the 20th century has been fashioned under Taylor's guidance and supervision.
Taylor has been especially influential in the packaging of music. His records are as much art to see as they are to hear. With heavy, glossy, gatefold covers featuring stark design and striking photography, his records have the sound and feel of something bearing unusual class and great quality.
After earning a degree in psychology in the early 1950s, Taylor played trumpet in clubs around Virginia Beach. He relocated to New York and secured a venerable post as head of artists and repertoire at Bethlehem Records. He produced a wide variety of jazz for Bethlehem before he took a higher profile position with ABC Paramount during the late fifties. At ABC, he produced some jazz and a great many more vocal recordings that enjoyed popular success. ABC also issued several records at the time under Taylor's name (Ping Pang Pong and Lonelyville) with music and orchestral guidance by the great film and TV composer Kenyon Hopkins, one of Taylor's first house arrangers.
When ABC Records sought to form a jazz subsidiary in 1960, Taylor was recruited to oversee it all. He called the company Impulse! (connoting the spontaneous feeling of jazz), conceived its distinctive black and orange label and spine design, brought in photographer Pete Turner for elegant, vivid cover art and initiated heavy cardboard, gatefold sleeves (to convey substance). Taylor, however, stayed with Impulse for only a few months. But during this short time, he recorded historically significant music by John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Cecil Taylor (under Gil Evans' name), Oliver Nelson and Ray Charles.