Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Salute to John Hermansader

Sad to report that one of Blue Note's first great cover designers/artists, John Hermansader, recently passed away. I was honored to be interviewed by writer Bob Miller for a July 17 tribute article, The Art of Jazz in the Danbury News Times. Unfortunately, this article has already been archived by the NewsTimes and one has to pay at least $3.49 in order to read it. If you opt out of that, you can take a look at some of Hermansader's wonderfully modern and expressionistic covers on this page at Vintage Vanguard, (which is where I got the image above). Hermansader preceded the better known Reid Miles and, although Miles did make the "Blue Note look" we all can recognize and nicely highlighted Francis Wolff's photos, it's safe to say that Hermansader, who was the jazz fan and aficionado that Miles wasn't, was more successful, by combining both abstracted marks and photographs, at creating a visual jazz.

On the Vintage Vanguard page I've linked here, you can also see his work in BN 5021-5024, 5028-5032, 5037-9, 5041-2, 5045, in addition to those on this page and a few others. (If you click on them, you can sometimes pick out his name along the side of the larger images that opens up in a new window.) These are all 10" records. The other great designer/artist represented on this page is Paul Bacon, and it's not always easy to distinguish who did which without a credit somewhere on the cover.

In any case, hats off to John Hermansader: his early designwork on jazz album covers surely influenced many of those that came after him and helped set jazz apart as the single genre best represented by its distinctive packaging. No other music form has ever had such a cohesively fertile visual component as 1940s-60s jazz.