11 April 2008

Friday Album Cover: A New Perspective

Note: Friday Album Cover will be a weekly feature in which I discuss an iconic, innovative, or otherwise interesting jazz album cover. Though examining album covers is not necessarily imperative to an understanding of jazz, plenty of people, myself included, find them to be a noteworthy facet of a music in which image and mythology often play a central role. Enjoy...

Donald Byrd
A New Perspective

What better way to open this feature than with one of the classic covers of the Blue Note catalogue? Blue Note founders Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff employed the talented graphic designer Reid Miles to design much of the label's distinctive cover art during the 1950s and 1960s, often employing the photographs of Wolff, who always had his camera nearby in the studio. As a result, the album covers of Blue Note's catalogue are among the most memorable and distinctive in the history of jazz.

Recorded in 1963, Donald Byrd's A New Perspective employs an eight-voice choir in addition to his septet to give the music a distinctive gospel tinge. Byrd intended to innovate on this album, using the choir to bring gospel to the fore in an unprecedented manner. Hence, the album's title and unique album cover, in which Byrd is photographed next to a Jaguar roadster at a peculiar angle. The passenger-side headlight dominates the album cover, and serves multiple allusions. Byrd intends to shine new light on the influence of gospel on jazz, and the term "shine a light" is a familiar trope in gospel lyrics. Additionally the odd angle of the photograph (the new perspective) forces the audience to look at Byrd in a new way. All things considered, the album cover is quite memorable and fits in with the concept of the music quite well.

1 comment:

Ted said...

Nice cover indeed. Friday on XM they played an old Artist Confidential with Herbie Hancock and he was talking about Donald Byrd giving him his chance and asking him to come to New York with his group. Herbie replied, "Sure...but you'll have to ask my mother first."