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Sunday, 10 January 2016


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One of the reasons I don't really care for jazz to this day is that a childhood best friend and sometime college roommate was a jazz nut, and in particular, an Ornette Coleman fanatic. He would play Coleman's records incessantly, literally hours on end, and sometimes, the same tune over and over, until he had it fully ingested. I mean, enough was enough. When you brought up this whole jazz album/photography thing (an idea that could support its own website) I could close my eyes and see the cover of an Ornette Coleman album, Ornette and some other guys standing in some woods in the snow. Weird, but interesting. There were quite a few jazz albums with paintings on the cover, as well. I know that because my friend had approximately a million long-play albums, and I used to go through them looking at the art, while (mostly) staying away from the music. I have a dozen or so jazz albums now, mostly of the complication sort. A series of jazz albums came out in the early 2000s with names like "Jazz for a Rainy Day" and "Jazz for When You're Alone" and they featured a kind of throw-back Paris-based jazz photography, that I find kind of interesting.

I forgot to mention it in my first post, but overtime I wrote out Ornette Coleman's name, the @#$%&* iMac spellchecker changed it to Ornate. And stupidly, would leave the word capitalized in the middle of a sentence.

When I shot an album cover some years ago (http://www.imagepro.dk/Nechoes/index.htm), it dawned on me that in the past, we had the 12x12 inch "canvas" of the LP, since reduced to the 5x5 inch format of the CD, and in the future of iTunes and Streaming, the listener will usually see something like 2x2 inches on a screen. That surely has had a significant impact on the way that covers are designed these days. My own preferred format: The 12x24 inch gatefold sleeves of, e.g., Marillion or Genesis.

There is, of course, a ridiculous amount of great jazz album covers from this period with an emphasis on photography, even though it is often difficult to isolate the quality of the photographs from the quality of the overall design where photographs, typography and and illustrations complement and feed off each other. That cover of "Speak No Evil" is among the great ones. But I have always loved the combination of music and the introspective portraits of Coltrane and Miles on "Blue Train" and "Round About Midnight" respectively. Both seemingly lost in thought or in their music. Both on their way to creating musical legacies that reach into eternity. I strongly feel that black North American music (forgive me if I don't find the politically correct description) such as blues, jazz, soul and rap (all of them emphatically important) is THE great North American gift of cultural expression to the rest of us in other parts of the world.

Lee Friedlander shot a lot of jazz musicians for album covers in the late 1950s when he first moved to New York. He was the house photographer at Atlantic Records for a time. I'm not having much luck finding a good collection of his jazz shots online, but here's one classic: http://ucdocumentary.blogspot.com/2015/10/lee-friedlander.html

Donald Byrd's A New Perspective?


[And don't forget Tone-Loc's tribute --Mike]

Brilliant article, John. Congrats.
Curiously, my favourite Jazz album cover has no photographs: it's Cannonball Adderley's 'Somethin' Else' (Blue Note ST-46338). It might have no photos - which is strange, as Blue Note gained some reputation due to Francis Wolff's photographs -, but Reid Miles' graphic concept was groundbreaking and resisted the test of time. It is great, even by today's standards.
One favourite of mine is Thelonious Monk's 'Monk's Music' (Riverside RLP-242). Paul Weller's photograph is amazing in that it perfectly capures - perhaps not too subtly - Monk's eccentricity. As a counterpoint, the cover for 'Thelonious Himself' (Riverside RLP-235) shows us the introspective side of Thelonious Monk - which is wonderfully appropriate for this splendid, beautiful solo album.
Jazz album covers are so rich and diverse that it's hard to pick one. All Blue Notes of the 60's are excellent. Even Riverside and Prestige, which weren't reputed by the quality of their covers, produced some excellent ones, as the Monk's albums I mentioned and Sonny Rollins' 'Saxophone Colossus' (Prestige P-7079). And then there's Impulse, a label which put some serious effort in their albums' presentation. The three I've mentioned earlier, however, are in my view the most accomplished ones.
And let's not forget some great photographers had a keen interest in Jazz. Lee Friedlander contributed for album covers with some great photographs (the one on Coltrane's 'Giant Steps', one of my favourite Jazz albums, comes to mind), and W. Eugene Smith made some fabulous pictures which feature in his 'The Loft' collection. To mention but a few.
As an aside, my favourite Jazz-themed photograph isn't on an album, nor was it made by some prominent photographer. It's a glorious image of Pannonica de Koenigswarter and Thelonious Monk getting inside Nica's Bentley by the Five Spot. This picture's atmosphere and sheer sophistication fascinated me so much I tried to get to know everything about it. I found its author was photojournalist Ben Martin, about whom little is known. It's one of my favourite pictures, and is the one that spurred me to photograph at night. I don't master HTML, so I can't incorporate it, but here's a link: https://numerofblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/thelonious-monk-and-baron-008.jpg

Superb post. What wonderful photographs. Thank you, John.

Both the cover and inside shot on the wonderful Coltrane/Hartman album are pretty good; used ’em on my blog at https://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2007/05/14/Coltrane-Hartman

Thanks, John Kennerdell, for the informative article!

My favorite studio portrait is that by acclaimed photographer, Roy DeCarava, of Bill Evan's "Conversations With Myself Album:



The screen shot of the front cover doesn't do the photograph justice: it is not a complete silhouette, rather, some beautiful modeling light across the left side of Bill's face.

It was a very controversial album because of the overdubbing (two overlay tracks on the original)

By one source, Roy DeCarava's favorite jazz musician subject was John Coltrane:

“Coltrane on Soprano, 1963”, captures the performer in his musical element. Coltrane was one of photographer Roy DeCarava’s favorite subjects. “I traveled up and down the East Coast to hear him play and to photograph him. I shot photos in the clubs with the lighting that was available. If I thought I was bothering him, then I wouldn’t shoot. I would just listen to the music.”

A nice obituary/bio of Roy DeCarava

"DeCarava was best known for his dark and sublimely textured portraits of American jazz musicians..."

- Richard

A few come to mind for me:
Nirvana - Zoot Sims and Bucky Pizzarelli - photographer Thaxton Levine - moody B&W images of the musicians in the studio suggest a late night recording session. The Comprehensive Charlie Parker, Live Performances Vol 1 on ESP-Disk, photographer Alex Marshack's front cover photo has Charlie playing his sax in a kitchen, pots and pans, in the foreground - his eyes suggest he's lost in thought, his hands obscured by a shelf.
But for me, the most impactful covers were from my college days and CTI records- Creed Taylor's label with all the budding jazz players - George Benson, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock,Freddie Hubbard, etc. Pete Turners photos dominated the covers - all printed in high quality - color, edgy or at least fashion conscious of the times, the one that sticks out the most in my mind is the cover for Stanley Turrentine's Sugar album. Suggestive, sexy, moody and jazzy. Pete did release a book of his work from that time - in an album sized book. Highly recommended to anyone who explored these CTI albums of the 70s.


That's just showing off.

Besides, Donald's cover has an early, preferred version of the XKE.


Another vote for Eugene Smith in Sam Stephenson's The Jazz Loft Project book.

Image: Thelonious Monk (with Hal Overton in the background).

Click on the image for an slideshow from the NY Times (with audio from the Jazz Loft tapes).

I think of the Jazz Loft as a very long form of jazz photography (multimedia?) more like "wildlife" photography rather than portraiture or photographing stage performances. It also does its best to reveal some of the odd personality of Eugene Smith.

One thing missing from this book was a CD. It really needed a CD. After all the book is about both the tape recordings and photographs made in Eugene Smith's loft. Once you add the audio you get the full picture of life in the loft.

A close substitute for the CD is WNYC Jazz Loft radio series produced and hosted by Sara Fishko and originally heard as a 10-part radio series in 2009.


Or as a four part set of podcasts for NPR


This interview with Sam Stephenson, author of the book, is worth a listen too.


I see Sara Fishko has made a documentary film on this topic too: "The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith. It debuted at the New Orleans Film Festival in October 2015. I've not seen it yet but perhaps it'll appear on PBS (or Netflix) or at a film festival near me.


I personally think any conversation about Jazz, Photography and Album Covers has to include a large section on ECM and Manfred Eicher. I have bought ECM records on the cover alone, being that they are often as good as the music inside.

Here is a New York Times article from 2012 that talks about the importance of the image to the music. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/arts/design/ecm-album-covers-by-manfred-eicher.html?_r=0

Windfall Light and Horizons Touched are two great publications on ECM and its art.

I love Jean Bach's documentary that revolves around Art Kane's Jazz who's who photo: A Great Day in Harlem. I saw the film at the movie theater in San Francisco in 1995 and later on DVD.


A while back I picked up an album called Jazz at Preservation Hall III. It wasn't until I got it home that I realized that on the cover were two extraordinary portraits by Lee Friedlander. I don't think of him as a portraitist, but apparently he made a number of photos of New Orleans jazz musicians back in the '60s.

I have a soft spot for Pete Turner's portrait of Antonio Carlos Jobim on the cover of Stone Flower.


Creed Taylor used a lot of Pete Turners pictures on the albums he produced when he ran CTI records.
I think the Jobim picture may be one of the only artist portraits the rest being classic Turner images.
Interesting note, I was just looking at my copy of Prelude by Dedato which came out in the early 1970's. It has a lovely Turner image on the cover. On the inside you will find "Cover photograph available as large (11 in. X 14 in.) custom color print for $19.50 Each photograph is printed by K&L Color Laboratories from the original transparency according to the photographers own standards".

Tone-Loc, Mike? Truly, your tastes range far and wide. We had no idea.

On a serious note, I too reacted more positively to the mid-Sixties Blue Note cover until I realized why. The graphic style established in that decade has persisted into our times, and so the cover elements are familiar and trigger recognition quickly. The use of saturated blue, the lipstick imprint in red, the blurred foreground face, all these would not be out of place in any design work today.

By contrast, the Fifties covers are more of their time, with that brick/sepia color being strictly from that era and little used today.

Of the three examples from that earlier decade, it is the Ray Bryant cover that seems the most modern.

But they are all masterpieces of the form.

Thank you John for putting them up.

Love these jazz posts. This one might be the best yet. Lots of music to sample and great photos.

Wow, Mike! Thank you and your guest writer, John Kennerdell! You know that we love you, and your combination of photo, your view on the World and everything in it! We newer know what's next, and that is a good thing.

For the photos, if not the music, my favorite album is: The Last Giant: the John Coltrane anthology, by Rhino Records © 1993. A two-CD album, it has a cloth-bound CD case and a 50-page booklet inside a slipcase. The cover photos of the booklet and the slipcase are by Lee Friedlander.

                    Inside back cover photo by Ray Avery

The booklet of "liner" and biographical notes is richly illustrated with B&W photos of John Coltrane et al taken by various photographers. Full-page photos appear on almost every two-page spread of the booklet.

             'Trane and Diz', New York City, 1951. Photo by Popsie Randolph

             Monterey Jazz Festival, 1962. Photo by Ray Avery

              European Tour, 1961. Photographer unknown

I really like only 6 out of the 19-piece double-album; I like almost all of the photos.

Love that Bill Evans Trio album - on high rotation here ... would also suggest 1961 release Junior Mance Trio At The Village Vanguard (http://www.discogs.com/Junior-Mance-Trio-At-The-Village-Vanguard/release/377179 ) which perversely has rear band photo credit (Steve Shapiro if you don't mind) but cover image credit for design to Ken Deardoff, who designed at least 5 Bill Evans covers for Riverside Records ...

Jazz seems to attract artists like bears to honey. Let's not forget the great illustration used on jazz covers too, like David Stone Martin and even Andy Warhol, before "pop art" fame.

One of the highlights of my so-called photo life was spending a few vacation days in the mid 90's touring the George Eastman house in Rochester, and then driving back to the mid-west through Chicago and catching a Claxton show and lecture at the Harold Washington library. I bought a high-end, press produced (not photographic) print of Chet Baker, and William Claxton signed it and chatted with me about the jazz guys he had known and/or photographed, including my favorite Jack Teagarden. Nice time, and a truly nice guy.

Boy, you can smell the wretched reek of tobacco in some of those.

Pete Turner did some nice covers for Creed Taylor. Not portraits, but very strong graphics. One of my favorites is a long, curved boat wake on a Bill Evans album.

Here's an interesting interview with Turner:


Seems odd in an article of this scope to not mention Friedlander. Especially when you reference one of his covers (Coleman's, Shape of Jazz to Come).

Interesting post John - thanks. Regarding your first example, Chet Baker: he's credited with an interesting quote - "it takes a pretty great drummer to be better than no drummer." Wonder how he worked that out in all of the groups he played with. Must have always had great drummers with him.

I have to say, when I think "photography and jazz" (or at least "modern jazz-heritage music") I think of ECM. What label has done more to use expressive photography to subtle effect on its sleeves? The sought-after books "Sleeves of Desire" and "Horizons Touched", produced by ECM, shows how seriously they take this aspect of the whole package.


I agree with the others that ECM covers are cool. Some of the early Pat Metheny album covers are iconic (Bright Size Life, New Chautaqua). The albums themselves are worth seeking out.

I'd also add that Speak No Evil is a fantastic album. If lasers could wear out CDs, my copy would have turned to a pile of dust by now.

Since no one's mentioned Don Hunstein yet, how about Don Hunstein? I came to know his photography from classical music (his photos of Glenn Gould and Leonard Bernstein are probably two his better known work), but since he was the Columbia house photographer, he also photographed Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, among others. Here's his website with some of his work: http://www.donhunstein.com/artists.php

Also, there's a funny moment at around 16:10 of a young Hunstein trying to photograph a petulant Gould: https://youtu.be/g0MZrnuSGGg?t=16m10s

I immediately thought of the cover for "Blue Trane". Trane wetting a reed held in his right hand, left hand tucked behind his head, tenor hanging around his neck. An eccentric and beautiful portrait of a beautiful man -- printed deep blue, of course.

And then there's the truly astonishing cover of Thelonius Monk's Underground. I don't know anything about the origin of this image, but holy cow.

The late Harold Feinstein deserves a mention here. While there are not any of his covers for Blue Note on his site www.haroldfeinstein.com , his work deserves mention [and his site a visit], as he designed and shot some covers for that label. Also of note is the fact that he was the tenant of the jazz loft in NYC of [resurgent] fame, eventually given over to Gene Smith by Harold, reportedly because Harold's wife was pregnant, and there was no bathroom on the floor of the loft. Harold passed on this past fall, and he's missed, as are a lot of the musicians who played at the loft.

In my own work, including the frames from the 60s I've been revisiting recently, compared with more recent work, I note that the cigarette smoke is missing.

If Manfred Eicher chooses a photo of mine for an ECM album cover then I will have reached nirvana.

Manuel, funny but as I was writing this I kept thinking about that Somethin' Else cover. So simple, so striking, so perfect. If this site were called The Online Typographer I would have devoted the whole piece to Reid Miles and that design.

As for Friedlander, I actually started writing about Giant Steps but decided that neither the photo nor the design were as interesting as those on the Chet Baker cover, even if the music was a lot more significant. And yes, the reference to The Shape of Jazz to Come would have been a perfect place to mention him, except I don't think he took that photo. The album cover credit says Claxton, as do all online authorities I've seen. Evidently it came from the same shoot as the semi-famous B&W portrait here.

Finally, for John C., I'd like to apologize to my college roommate for playing way too much Ornette. He claimed he came to like it but I think he was just being polite.

Oh my god, album covers. A huge visual feast just gone. City to city and town to town, album covers and liner notes WERE the Internet...

Did anyone mention Jazzinphoto? You can search on artists and photographer.s Some files are large enough for a decent print.


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