Prestige Records: The Album Cover Collection

Larry Taylor By

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Prestige Records: The Album Cover Collection
Hardcover; 128 pages
Concord Editions

Prestige Records: The Album Cover Collection has been published in honor of the seminal jazz label's 60th anniversary. The handsome coffee table-sized book would make the perfect gift for many jazz fans—both those who bought the albums in the 1950s and 1960s, and younger listeners who have seen the covers replicated on much smaller CD reissues.

Over the years, these creative covers became appreciated as art. Included here are 120 classic LP covers, which can again be appreciated in their full-size glory. Also included is a nine track CD with original stars playing classic tracks. A big plus in the package is a an introduction by veteran jazz writer Ira Gitler, who was there from the company's start.

Hired by owner Bob Weinstock in 1950, Gitler was at first all purpose gofer, doing everything form sending out 78s to writing promotional copy. With the advent of the 10-inch LP, he also laid out the covers in rudimentary style, usually made up of photos and artists' names. Early examples are shown.

Gitler soon abdicated his cover job, and professional designers were hired. It is hard to pick favorites, but some stand out and will be easily recognized. Tom Hannah did many covers and among the most striking are his abstract design in red and black for Thelonious Monk / Sonny Rollins (1954) and the silhouette of Sonny Rollins for Saxophone Colossus (1956).

Many will remember Phil Keys' bold black on white super graphic lettering spelling out Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1956). Many covers deal with the Davis recordings. Lots of fun, too, is to see early photos on covers of James Moody and Houston Person, saxophonists who are still going strong today.

Attention-grabbing is the whimsical close up of two eggs in the frying pan for Paul Quinichette on the Sunny Side (1957). Modern art was often alluded to, notably with Esmond Edwards' Picassoesque Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1956) and his Mondrian-like blocks of color on saxophonist John Coltrane's Soultrane (1958) and organist Shirley Scott's Great Scott! (1958). And then there is Richard "Prophet" Jenkins' take off on Dali for reed player Eric Dolphy's Out There and Outward Bound—New Jazz (both 1960).

Weinstock himself begin delving into photography, revealing he had the eye of an artist. See his famous photo of a defiant Miles Davis in a white cap and seersucker jacket for Davis' Musings of Miles (1955) and his stark shot of Davis squatting in front of a fence near Hackensack River for Miles Davis and Milt Jackson Quintet/Sextet (1955).

The nine selections on the CD include works by Davis, Coltrane, pianist Mose Allison, Dolphy and saxophonist Stan Getz. For a pleasurable hour or two, sit back with this book and listen to the music.

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