“…like photographing a saxophone player”

November 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


1965 Impulse Records Elvin Jones record sleeve

Elvin Jones as photographed by Chuck Stewart (Impulse! Records, 1965)

This 1965 “post-bop” album featuring longtime John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones as bandleader is described on the back cover as being a “salute” to Coltrane, who was such a big part of Impulse! Records that the iconic jazz label was often called “the house that Trane built.” It was also a company known for its beautiful packaging and striking photography, and this is definitely another example of that in my view. In this case the evocative image is by the prolific jazz photographer Chuck Stewart, who is credited with more than 2,000 album covers for a long list of classic labels starting in the 1950s. Still living in the same Teaneck, New Jersey home he moved into the year this record came out, the 85-year-old Stewart has had several exhibitions of his work in recent years. In an interview on the occasion of one he spoke about what it was like to capture musical legends like Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn and John Coltrane: “You have no way of knowing. People will ask me: ‘How did it feel to photograph John Coltrane?’ And I say, ‘It felt like photographing a saxophone player.’ ”

Here is a good selection of some Impulse! album cover images.

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