Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 13

May 9th, 2015


Paul Morris is a graphic designer and writer who collects album art of the 1940’s and 1950’s. He finds his examples of influential mid-century design in the used record stores of Portland, Oregon.

This edition focuses on Everest Records, the last of several new labels that Alex Steinweiss helped launch

__________

  Everest Records was the last of several new labels that Alex Steinweiss helped launch, beginning in 1958. This was late in his career, when he freelanced for several labels while also doing magazine work. He designed the logo, disc label, and other materials.

The Richard Strauss cover below is one of his best efforts, and reminiscent of his earlier work for Columbia. This collage used the composer’s portrait to allude to the autobiographical elements of the tone poem. One section is called “The Hero at Battle,”  so armor is appropriate. The background was printed in a silver ink that doesn’t photograph quite right.

The Stravinsky Ebony Concerto, from 1958, also shares some design elements with earlier covers, but the colors are up to date. The large yellow and blue logo bars are intrusive on some of the Everests, but in this case Steinweiss took care to harmonize his color palette with the logo.

aaa-paul1

aaa-paul2

__________

  This label emphasized more modern classical works, and here Stravinsky’s Petrouchka is given a charming illustration. The ballet is meant to evoke a Russian country fair; Petrouchka was a marionette. Here the logo bars have shrunk to a more tasteful size.

aaa-paul3

aaa-paul4

__________

Many covers were based on photographs and Steinweiss’s role was that of art director for the shoot. The exciting Billy the Kid shows the protagonist caught cheating at cards (not one of the incidents portrayed in Copland’s ballet). The model wears striped pants never seen in cowboy country and holds oversized cards. The card table he stands on is curiously folded.

For Music Tailored to Your Taste he created a dress out of sheet music. This image shows on the edges the silver-coated paper that initially was used on the backs of the covers. The type looks old-fashioned for 1958; it’s like a condensed Trade Gothic but with a small x-height: the lowercase letters are much shorter than the capitals.

aaa-paul5

aaa-paul6

__________

The subtle and finely detailed illustration for Prokofiev’s 5th must have been highly esteemed by Steinweiss, as it is one of the few Everest covers he included in the first book about his work. The symphony had no particular program, so I’m unable to explain the figure in classical toga holding a lyre and a face mask. The literal meaning of the next cover, for Arthur Benjamin piano works, also is elusive. The bust on a column, the vertical piano keyboard, and the sail-like object appear to have been photographed through shower glass.

More about the label: this was one of many companies proclaiming their superior technology and sound. Everest’s claim to fame was the use of 35mm film rather than the narrower tape normally used. This was said to give the engineers three times the space normally available. Every album included several dense paragraphs extolling “the most advanced ideas in acoustics for recording.” The label was a division of an electronics company: “The parent company is considered one of the world’s finest precision electronic facilities and is engaged chiefly in the development and production of ultra-secret military devices.” The military-industrial-recording complex?

aaa-paul7

aaa-paul8

__________

  The label recorded a fair amount of jazz. Here are two Charlie Barnet covers, the first one very similar to the early Steinweiss style, except for the crazy type. The “R” is particularly witty. The silly Cherokee photo came out about a year after the equally silly Sonny Rollins cover for Way Out West.

aaa-paul9

aaa-paul10

__________

      Besides the silver paper stock, Everest tried a unique packaging idea. The inner sleeve was made of sturdy silver-coated cardboard with a dowel handle attached to the edge. I don’t know how many records were produced with the dowel, but few survive today in the used-LP bins. They must have been expensive and did not last long; the label itself lived only three years.

     The Villa-Lobos piece was based on a Brazilian folk tale about an enchanted bird. If you look closely, you’ll see that the bird appears to be a photograph, superimposed on the jungle scene. My theory is the designer took a stuffed bird and decorated it with multi-colored feathers.

aaa-paul11

aaa-paul12

__________

      Two more photo-based covers from my collection. The Wild Bill Davis has liner notes by Nat Hentoff. The Kodály and Bartok works were both based on Hungarian folk music; the central photo must be Budapest.

aaa-paul13a

aaa-paul14

__________

     The Copland cover below is a still life within a still life; the painting on the easel evokes Braque and Gris. The Ralph Vaughan Williams record is a rare attempt to use William Blake as album art. The work was born in the 1920s when Williams was commissioned to create a ballet based on Blake’s illustrations for the Book of Job. That’s Satan reclining in the foreground. Above, Job and his family before their tribulations began, as painted by Blake.

     For more Everest images by Steinweiss, click here.  Ken Halperin believes the Everest art is second only to the late-forties Columbia work in the master’s career.

aaa-paul15

aaa-paul16

__________

 

      Last is Tony Pastor, aging big band leader paying tribute to Artie Shaw. Not from my collection, but the record rack intrigued me — I remember these from my younger days. It’s funny that an audiophile label would depict their records stored so carelessly. Tony has a fancy turntable, but his Everest disks are collecting dust, scratches, and possibly cigarette ash in that rack!

aaa-paul17

*

Next time, jazz and pop photo-based covers from the 1950s

__________

In Volume 1 of “Cover Stories,” Paul shared his collection of covers by Alex Steinweiss, known as the father of the record album cover, and for many years in charge of Columbia Records’ art department.

Volume 2 focused on Columbia covers

Volume 3 featured jazz illustrations from the early years of the record album

Volume 4 revisited the 1950’s with images of fans holding and enjoying their albums

Volume 5 explored the work of Alex Steinweiss when he used the pseudonym “Piedra Blanca”

Volume 6 featured teenagers of the 1950’s enjoying their music

Volume 7 featured Steinweiss album covers from his prime period — the late 1940’s and early 1950’s

Volume 8 featured a “disturbing” and fascinating trend in 1950’s album art — Records on the Floor!

Volume 9 featured a selection of RCA Victor album covers from Paul’s collection

Volume 10 featured a selection of covers by Curt John Witt, the prolific illustrator for mid-century budget record labels

Volume 11 featured a selection of “glamour girl” covers

Volume 12 featured the “late Columbia” era of master designer Alex Steinweiss

Share this:

2 comments on “Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 13”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Greetings from Portland!

Commentary and photographs concerning the protests taking place in the city in which I live.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. 14 poets contribute to the first volume of collected poetry.

Poetry

photo by Russell duPont
The second volume of poetry reflecting this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season features the work of 23 poets

Short Fiction

photo FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Publisher’s Notes

On taking a road trip during the time of COVID...

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin are featured

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Poetry

photo by John Vachon/Library of Congress
“Climate Change” — Ten poems in sequence by John Stupp

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
"Charles Ingham's Jazz Narratives" connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition's narratives are "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #140

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Although he had success as a bandleader in the 1930’s, he is best known for being manager of Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse (where Thelonious Monk was the pianist) during the birth of bebop. Who was he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive