My aunt and uncle gave me The Color of Jazz: Album Cover Photographs by Pete Turner for my birthday. I’ve been enjoying it a few pages at a time since December, and unfortunately, I’ve finally finished studying the images and reading the accompanying text.
It’s a beautiful book, LP sized to give the full effect of the album art that’s usually shrunk to CD at best or iPod screen at worst, truly made for enjoying the full-size renditions of such iconic covers as Wave and The Sound of New York.
Turner did covers mainly for albums produced by Creed Taylor for Impulse!, A&M, and CTI during the 1960s and 70s. The process was interesting to say the least. Taylor would give Turner an album title only, and Turner would create or find an image that more often than not took the title in a different direction, moving away from the artist portraits that were so in vogue at the time.
The work is amazing. Turner relies heavily on colored filters to create sublime images that are as haunting as they are vivid. His images take the music of such artists as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Freddy Hubbard, George Benson, Deodato, Joe Farrell, and Milt Jackson among others to new realms, often connecting with the music in surprising ways such as with his unsettling image from the cover of Joe Farrell’s Canned Funk: a glass eye floating in a newly opened can of peaches.
Oddly, I didn’t realize how many of the CDs in my collection are graced by Turner’s images and how many of the albums he did that I don’t have but are on my list. Reading this, I can’t help but be saddened by the way that the new download culture of music is dispensing with the notion of visual art accompanying the music. I never bought LPs, but I loved CDs for their packaging. Of course, the whole notion of the album seems to fading away as well.
To have a look at some of Turner’s jazz covers, check out this site devoted to Turner’s work.