16 May 2008

Friday Album Cover: Oh!


For this week's album cover, I'm going with Oh!, the 2003 recording of ScoLoHoFo, a supergroup consisting of John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, and Al Foster. Like some of our other Friday album covers, this one comes courtesy of Blue Note, proving that the label is still dedicated to presenting distinctive album art in the 21st century. This cover is reminiscent of the Beatles' Let it Be in its compartmentalization of the four principles of the group, represented here by their respective instruments.

The comparison to Let It Be also provides an interesting insight into the jazz group. Many rock critics have pointed out that the presentation of the Beatles in individual frames on Let It Be is quite significant, being that it was the last album the band would release together before breaking up. It is now well-known that the band was under considerable tension by this point in its history. Indeed, the project had to be salvaged in post-production by Phil Spector, since the band members were not talking to each other by the end of the Let it Be sessions. Considering this interpersonal strife, the layout of the album cover seems like a telling omen in hindsight, with John, Paul, George, and Ringo just breaking free of each other before calling it quits for good.

This is clearly not the case with ScoLoHoFo. True, they only came together for one album, and did not suffer from the pressure of stardom like the Beatles did. But even so, for these four musicians, all of whom are masters of their instruments on the present jazz scene, and lead well-regarded bands of their own, coming together for an album such as this requires a certain amount of pride swallowed. But is indicative of jazz that such individuals could come together and create a work of art free of egotism. That is why it is significant that the instruments are presented on the cover to Oh!. Whereas the Beatles (or more likely their record company) employed headshots to present great individuals at work, ScoLoHoFo (or more likely Blue Note) chose to simply present the instruments in a (kind of) use of negative space. The absence of their faces says more about this album than their presence would. Alone they are individuals, together they are a jazz band, whose sound is greater than the sum of its parts.

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