All that Jazz

I was listening to Wynton Marsalis on the Sirius XM radio program called In The Swing Seat. He was comparing and contrasting the playing styles of two jazz greats on the piano, Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson. I don’t pretend to be an expert in jazz history, so it was a wonderful exercise in listening to the differences in their styles and learning about where these influences may have originated.

This program started me wondering what the album art for these artists looked like. Some initial exploration found interesting differences that in some ways support my feeling about their musical styles. 

I think of Erroll Garner as a an artist who bridged two eras and two approaches. He was a master of merging stride with a more modern style. An amazing artist with a unique style, and one firmly rooted in the early part of the 20th century. Although he was born in 1925, only 4 years after Garner, I think of Oscar Peterson as a classy, smooth technician of a more contemporary style. Both amazing artists but with different perspectives on the jazz piano.

The album art work shown here all dates from the 1950s. The Garner covers, like his music, bridges the graphics from two eras. From an earlier time on the left, to a more contemporary photographic approach common in the mid-century on the right. The Peterson covers have a classic 1950s color collage and sketch style that was very progressive for its time.albums-garner

albums-petersonSeveral of these images come from an amazing Swedish jazz web site In their Birka Jazz Archive, they have great images of hundreds of older jazz albums and give detailed credits for the designers, artists and photographers.

This archive is not only a treat for fans of jazz history, but is an amazing reference for the history and trends of all graphic design through the last half of the 20th century. I encourage you to take a look.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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