Impulse 50

Biography

Impulse! Records Kicks Off Its 50th Anniversary Commemoration With Release of First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection

In 2011, Impulse Records will mark two major milestones: the label’s 50th anniversary, and the 85th anniversary of John Coltrane’s birth. Coltrane, who inspired Impulse’s nickname “The House That Trane Built,” is arguably the greatest artist in the label’s storied history.

Impulse Records was the brainchild of legendary producer Creed Taylor. Fifty years after its birth, Impulse Records is being celebrated with the release of First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection, an exciting 4-disc collection that includes all of the timeless music produced by Taylor for the label that proudly wore its signature colors of orange and black on its spines.
Ray Charles’s Genius + Soul = Jazz, which will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011; John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass; Gil EvansOut Of The Cool; and Oliver Nelson’s Blues and The Abstract Truth are among the now-classic, five-star albums included in The Creed Taylor Collection. The set includes such radio hits and jazz anthems as Charles’ “One Mint Julep,” Coltrane’s “Africa,” Evans’ “La Nevada” and Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” along with two albums by trombonist Kai Winding (available on CD for the first time in the U.S.) – plus rare alternate takes and unused performances – that offer a comprehensive look at the diverse range of music recorded during the label’s first six months. With a vibrant design appropriate to an Impulse collection and extensive liner notes that include Taylor’s own recollections, The Creed Taylor Collection serves as the opening chapter of the label’s rich and lengthy story.
A series of live events and releases of rare and previously unreleased material are being planned to commemorate the label’s anniversary and Coltrane’s 85th birthday. Detailed information will follow shortly.

From 1961 through ’76, Impulse was an important part of a pivotal, fertile period in jazz history. Through the exciting and rapid changes of the ’60s and ’70s, Impulse Records was arguably the most effective label bringing the exciting world of jazz to a new generation of rock listeners. It boasted a roster filled with the sound of jazz tradition and the shape of jazz to come, releasing timeless recordings by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, and Keith Jarrett among many others. From the most challenging innovators to the most established traditionalists, Impulse made them all sound equally and eternally modern.
It’s no small matter that the age of Impulse overlapped an age of rapid social and political changes, of searching and experimentation. To many who made it through, Impulse was an inherent part of that velocity, keeping pace with – at times predicting – the sound and politics that lay ahead. “That’s where it’s at right now,” explained Impulse chief Bob Thiele in 1966. “Jazz music has always reflected the times. Today, there are violent, social transitions taking place, and these changes that are sometimes confusing, come out in musical expression.”

Impulse initially stood out from other labels of the day by covering a vast and variegated overview of the music – from swing to the extreme experimental edge of sixties jazz. Eventually, the mainstream label fine-tuned its focus almost exclusively on the avant-garde, and distinguished itself further by successfully marketing that style.

How Impulse was first perceived – and how that perception evolved – is one of the threads binding the story of the label. At the outset, in 1961, it was a success on radio and at the retail level. By the mid-‘60s, critics praised its catholic taste and commercial triumphs, its ability to profitably encompass the range of jazz talent. By the ‘70s, “it seemed as though Impulse became the label characterized by the angry black tenor man,” says producer Ed Michel, who led the label into the ’70s, and the rock era. “They weren’t angry, they weren’t all black and they weren’t all tenor men but that was kind of what it appeared to be.”

Impulse’s devotion to the mostly avant-garde, mostly African-American players collectively responsible for the last significant leap forward in modern jazz – the point where most jazz histories and timelines tend to end – stands today as one of the label’s most important accomplishments. The label’s commitment to experimentally charged music can be traced to the influence of one jazz musician who could help shape the musical identity of a major recording enterprise like Impulse Records: John Coltrane. “Coltrane was the jewel in Impulse’s small catalogue during the sixties,” says Creed Taylor.

As the man who both started Impulse and originally signed Coltrane to the label, Taylor is the focus of what will be a multi-volume approach to the deep and varied Impulse story. As The Creed Taylor Collection marks the 50th anniversary of the label’s beginning, so future releases will trace the successive stages of one of the most significant recording enterprises of the 20th Century.