Jazz Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

February 23, 2009

2009 Portland Jazz Festival

2009 Portland Jazz Festival rapped up last night. With the theme celebrating 70 years of Blue Note Records, and featuring artists both past and present, there was bound to have a little something for nearly every jazz fan. I was only able to see one concert this year, but--in my opinion--it was probably the most, must see performance.

Before I talk about seeing Lou Donaldson and Bobby Hutcherson live I'm going to talk about some educational talks I attended. Last Sunday I went to a Panel Discussion about Blue Note cover art. You can't be a fan of Blue Note records and besides the recordings themselves, not instantly be drawn to the cover art. I remember purchasing my first Blue Note album, Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1 by Thelonious Monk (the LP reissue from 10" that was Red Miles' first design for Blue Note). I was certainly a jazz novice then and I new the name on the record jacket, but it was that displayed cover that instantly drove me to purchase it. Upon listening, the recordings themselves were no joke and at that point I wanted everything and anything Blue Note; the terrific album artwork is just an added bonus.

The panel discussion was narrated by Portland's Tim DuRoche and consisted of four other individuals. Of great surprise to me it included author Ashley Kahn, and producer, jazz historian, writer, archivist -- however you want to label this great man -- Michael Cuscuna. To hear these two talk in person was a great honor. They primarily talked about the golden age of Blue Note Records when Reid Miles was designing covers from 1956 to 1967. But I learned about Martin Craig creating the unique "Pac Man" look on the record circular labels. The artwork Craig designed were surrealist in nature which fit into the Modern aesthetic fully endorsed by Alfred Lion. These early album covers were defying the standards by using the artists themselves on the covers to market the recordings. This as a whole was a major turning point in jazz record artwork from the mid 1950s onwards.

In the mid 1950s Reid Miles entered the picture, and from reading the Blue Note: The Biography book by Richard Cook, I already understood that Miles actually did not like jazz but was a classical music listener. As a result, all of the free promo copies he acquired from Blue Note were traded in for classical records. Michael Cuscuna elaborated on how Miles relied on Lion to convey the mood, feeling, and stylings of these recordings to complete a design that communicated the audio in which it enclosed.

Miles' last album was for Hank Mobley's Hi Voltage. At this point the label was already sold to Liberty Records and a new direction for the company was already being distinguished. Reid Miles went on to do photography which would later be included in a lot of 1970s rock covers. I was contacted by a rep from Capitol Records and was supplied with this link of a Blue Note album artwork slideshow. Even after seeing these covers for years, they still appear great and inspiring. There's nothing like seeing one of these Reid Miles designs and instantly wanting to hear the music underneath the artwork.

More posts to follow about the Festival.

No comments: