5 Favorite Jazz Record Covers from DJ Tom Schnabel

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The latest entry in our 5Things blog is from jazz aficionado Tom Schnabel, sharing his 5 favorite Jazz Record Covers. As someone with a fine appreciation for cover art –I’m so old school I still prefer CDs over MP3s and my box sets are part of my home decor — I thought this was worth sharing. Enjoy!

5 Favorite Jazz Record Covers

By Tom Schnabel KCRW Music Host

One of the things I love most about vinyl, besides the tactile aspect is the visual aspect, album cover art, something that has been lost in the digital revolution. Here are five classic album covers from days past:

1. John Coltrane: Impressions (Impulse Records 1961)

This groundbreaking album cover features simple, crisp, classic graphics. Three color panels, underneath a picture of Coltrane weaving his musical tapestry like a snake charmer, all in the lavish gatefold lp packaging that made Impulse records so collectible. Vinyl a must.

2. Archie Shepp: Four for Trane (Impulse Records 1964)
This, in beautiful gatefold packaging of Impulse Records once again, is one of the strangest jazz covers. Word has it that Coltrane was asleep when Shepp and the photographer arrived.
That’s why Coltrane looks half-asleep, a little out of it, and is wearing slippers. Shepp, meanwhile, is smoking a pipe at the bottom of the stairs, looking completely distracted and gazing into the distance.

3. Miles Davis: ESP (Columbia Records 1965)
Miles Davis had enough clout with the mighty Columbia Records to put his women on his album covers. On the cover of this album, debuting a new quintet, we see his beautiful dancer wife, Frances Davis, looking straight at the camera while Miles looks quizzically at her. Turns out they had just been in a fight and he was mad.

4. Sonny Clark: Cool Struttin’ (Blue Note Records 1957)
Classic Reid Miles graphics, typical of the great design he created for Blue Note. The image has sass, soul and attitude, just like the music within the album’s grooves.

5. Ornette Coleman: Something Else (Contemporary Records 1957)
This bold cover heralded the arrival of the bad boy of saxophone playing, a guy who would change music, delighting some and annoying many others who couldn’t grasp his harmolodic concept of tonal organization.