DJ Gilles Peterson's stash of jazz album cover art has been made into
a book. Charlotte Cripps flips through some of the best
Friday, 23 October 2009
A collection of rare jazz cover artwork of the 1970s has been brought
together by the DJ Gilles Peterson and independent jazz label boss
Stuart Baker of Soul Jazz Records.
Their new book, Freedom Rhythm & Sound, includes Don Cherry's quilt
cover for his record Relativity Suite in 1973, which was lovingly
made by his wife Moki Cherry, as well as some homemade cover art from
Afro-visionary Sun Ra, who released jazz records on his own label,
The sleeves, which were selected from their combined extensive
collections, reflect a new jazz era, when many of the
African-American artists turned away from the mainstream both
musically and economically. They embraced the ideas of the Civil
Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and took control of
their musical destiny, which resulted in DIY record sleeves.
"Many of the sleeves in the book are pretty hard to find as there
were so few made; 500 or 1000 copies," says Peterson. "My favourite
is the Coltrane sleeve Cosmic Music. He released it independently
whilst he was in dispute with Impulse and the artwork is from a
sketch of his. The Sun Ra sleeves are totally DIY. Many of them are
plain white sleeves which the band would draw on whilst on the road!"
Other gems in the book include the brightly coloured abstract
painting by the jazz musician and painter Lloyd McNeill of The Lloyd
McNeill Quartet, which adorns the cover of his 1969 album, Asha.
Muhal Richard Abrams, who was the figurehead of the Chicago
avant-garde jazz scene in the 1960s, painted a red figure carrying
mystic symbols across a desert for his debut album, Levels and
Degrees of Light, in 1968.
As many musicians were self-financed, the artwork is often strikingly
raw many were black and white, with hand-drawn graphics and very
basic typesetting in contrast to the artwork of jazz albums
released by the mainstream music industry.
The Tribe's Message from the Tribe (1973) shows a simply drawn globe,
with climate change, drugs and noise pollution mapped out across
continents. Elsewhere, the jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, who was
signed to ESP-Disk, the first independent label to release
avant-garde jazz music, designed the cover of Pharoah Sanders Quintet
with a simple black and white drawing of Icarus flying too close to the sun.
'Freedom Rhythm & Sound' is published by SJR Publishing at £19.95