This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
For those unaware, Frederick Dewayne “Freddie” Hubbard (April 7, 1938 – December 29, 2008) was an American jazz trumpeter of considerable renown. He’d reach his commercial and artistic zenith during the 1970s, which, as it happened, coincided with Jazz Fusion’s own height. That opened up his distinct bebop jazz upbringing to a number of new fans who weren’t there to catch this cool customer making his mark upon the post-John Coltrane Jazz era of the early ’60s.
Described thusly by Scott Yanow for Allmusic: “A blazing trumpeter with a beautiful tone on flügelhorn, Hubbard fared well in freer settings but was always essentially a hard bop stylist.” As a Blue Note label bandleader he’d record eight studio albums, even more as a sideman. Hubbard teamed with the likes of fellow label artists James Spaulding, pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Louis Hayes. Not to mention Herbie Hancock, Reggie Workman and Clifford Jarvis on the LP before you.
Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 crime film would re-use Hub-Tones’ graphic design for its poster.
His 1962 effort, Hub-Tones offered something special for Jazz purists to cite way back then, and “fusionistas”, like me, to follow once we “discovered” Mr. Hubbard’s work the next decade over. Particularly, if you lent your ears to the man’s improv and trumpet skills with one of the classic studio albums in the genre. Little wonder the LP a must-have for jazz collectors, musically. More so when examining elegant cover art as it’s the epitome of long-lasting style.
Designed by the influential Reid Miles, with photography by Francis Wolff, Hub-Tones graphics are pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Deceptively so with its set of nine vertical black bars against a white background and the almost playful use of typography for title design. A concept of cover art Reid as art director for Blue Note Records, and other designers decades down the line, reused a few times over1.
Naturally, the eye is drawn off-center to Hub-Tones‘ approach, and Reid’s take of monochromatic color photography, which was the hallmark of his and the label’s during their time together2. In essence, the heft of Freddie’s horn blowing weighs down the column; expressively signaling the authority of the tones emanating — even coyly directing the eye to the artist’s tag. A beautifully undemanding design conveying a message without the need of much detail.
Put another way, iconic.
- “You’re My Everything”
- “Prophet Jennings”
- “Lament for Booker”
- “For Spee’s Sake”
The 1989 Compact Disc re-issue would include alternate takes of “You’re My Everything”, “Hub-Tones”, and “Lament for Booker”.
The entire series can be found here.
- Horace Parlan Quintet – Speakin’ My Piece (1960) and Don Wilkerson – Shoutin’ (1963) the Blue Note albums shown, respectively. Along with above movie poster, it’d be paid homage to more recently with Bob Dylan’s 2015 Shadows of the Night album. ↩
- “Reid Miles was an American modernist designer, a genius of his time, best known for his work for Blue Note Records through the 1950’s and 60’s. During this period he designed almost 500 record covers for the label.” ~ The Iconic Work of Reid Miles ↩