Among the many things today’s young music consumers will never fully appreciate is the power of an arresting album cover. How could they when the vast majority of their music comes not even on CD, let alone the vinyl of our youth?
Jazz, of course, has a long history of creating indelible album art and it’s safe to say that some of the best images are included in the Impulse! Records 50th Anniversary Exhibit, which opened over the weekend and runs through October 23 at the Lush Life Gallery within San Francisco’s Jazz Heritage Center, 1320 Fillmore.
The exhibit, a Heritage Center press release informs,“celebrates the 50th anniversary of IMPULSE! with iconic album covers and images of musical history’s giants captured by Chuck Stewart’s camera that tell the label’s story as vividly as its music does.”
From the very beginning, artwork was a major component in the identity of IMPULSE! Records. When producer Creed Taylor laid out his vision for the label in late 1960, before any records had been released, he set a visual standard to match the music: laminated gatefold covers rich in colorful graphic design, distinctive typography and magnificent photography. The label launched in early 1961 with its own slogan: “The New Wave Of Jazz Is On IMPULSE!” Creed Taylor and his successor Bob Thiele fulfilled that promise in a variety of musical directions. Albums with well-defined concepts and cutting edge music were the label’s forte.
I saw what I presume to be a sliver of this exhibit at the Monterey Jazz Festival and confess it left me wanting more. I also assume it doesn’t include one of my favorite Impulse! releases, primarily because the album art really isn’t all that interesting.
”Archie Shepp Live in San Francisco” is a ’66 release recorded at the decidedly obscure Both/And Club. The disc features Shepp (tenor saxophone, piano), Roswell Rudd (trombone), Donald Garrett (bass), Lewis Worrell (bass) and Beaver Harris (drums); the material ranges from Ellington standards (“In A Sentimental Mood,” “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”) to Shepp originals (“The Wedding,” “Wherever June Bugs Go”). The CD version includes tracks from 1966’s “Three For A Quarter, One for A Dime.” AllMusic.com has this to say about “Live in San Francisco”:
This Impulse! recording features the fiery tenor Archie Shepp with his regularly working group of the period, a quintet also featuring trombonist Roswell Rudd, drummer Beaver Harris and both Donald Garrett and Lewis Worrell on basses. Although two pieces (Shepp’s workout on piano on the ballad “Sylvia” and his recitation on “The Wedding”) are departures, the quintet sounds particularly strong on Herbie Nichols’ “The Lady Sings the Blues” and “Wherever June Bugs Go” while Shepp’s ballad statement on “In a Sentimental Mood” is both reverential and eccentric”.
The only drawback (at least for me) is the blah cover art, which you can check out along with some of the Heritage Center exhibit’s best in the slide show.
Want to keep up with the best in Bay Area jazz?
Subscribe to us: Have our jazz Examiner columns sent to your inbox. Click SUBSCRIBE TO EMAIL on the button on this page. It’s free. (And we won’t spam you or give out your information.)
Bookmark us: knotmove.com/x-12458-Oakland-Jazz-Music-Examiner
Make us your home page,add us as a Favorite Examiner (see above),take us mobile at knotmove.com/mobile.html