Photography & Jazz

by Hypnotheis on July 22, 2011

What could be better?

The other day I saw a book on Blue Note album covers and it made me wonder who took these iconic photographs. So I did what you do in these situations; I looked to Google, then Vimeo and YouTube, and so, here’s the guy:

German born Francis Wolff (1907/08–1971).

After a career as a commercial photographer in Germany, Wolff emigrated to the United States in 1939. In New York his childhood friend Alfred Lion, had co-founded Blue Note Records in the same year, and Wolff joined Lion in running the company.

Francis Wolff took photographs during the recordings sessions, usually shot during session rehearsals, throughout the period of Lion’s involvement in Blue Note Records. They were used on publicity material and LP album sleeves, and have continued to be used in CD reissue booklets.

In 1956, Blue Note employed Reid Miles, an artist who worked for Esquire magazine. The cover art produced by Miles, often featuring Wolff’s photographs of musicians in the studio, was as influential in the world of graphic design as the music within would be in the world of jazz.

Under Miles, Blue Note was known for their striking and unusual album cover designs. Miles’ graphical design was distinguished by its tinted black and white photographs, creative use of sans-serif typefaces, and restricted color palette (often black and white with a single color), and frequent use of solid rectangular bands of color or white, influenced by the Bauhaus school of design.

On April 28, 1960 Lee Morgan recorded this tribute to Alfred Lion (who produced the album) and Francis Wolff.

As an example of how Blue Note has been an influence on modern music as well as graphic design, here’s a video for hip hop artist Madlib‘s remix project, Shades of Blue, released by Blue Note.

Now, go turn on some jazz, cat daddy!

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