Suggestions for Jazz typefaces

heymendoza's picture

Designing a series of Jazz book covers. They will have line art illustrations that reflect the bebop Jazz era. The three books will cover Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. I wanted to bring a little influence of the jazz records but since it is a 3 book series I need to bring them together with 1 or 2 typeface. One typeface for the headline or name of the Jazz player and the second typeface for the standard name of the book series that will be placed on all three books (author name, series name, publisher, etc). Any suggestions on typefaces and combination would help out. I'm out of ideas.

pattyfab's picture

I always think Clarendon is pretty jazz-y. A simple condensed sans a la Akzidenz or Trade Gothic would work too. They also do a lot with blocks of color: blue, orange, red.

You might look here for inspiration too. There are hundreds of samples:

http://www.pixagogo.com/7180565202

Paul Cutler's picture

I like Franklin Gothic mixed with News Gothic. Take a good look at the Blue Note album covers. Definitive jazz graphics.

pbc

baskervillebold's picture

How about P22 - Daddy-O. I've seen a few vintage jazz covers with a similar typeface.

Nick Shinn's picture

I agree with Paul about the authenticity of bold condensed sans (grot or square--pre Univers/Helevetica), but that might be a bit too clean and structured for the social memory of improvised jazz. So perhaps a little looseness/distress might work, e.g. my Brown, say Extra Bold Condensed, and paired with a gestural cursive script (Mistral comes to mind) to really capture the free flow.

The line illustrations sounds like a nice idea.

IMO, Daddy-O is a bit crazy and lacks gravitas, those were serious dudes and very laid back. I never got to see Bird play, but I love on the youtube videos it's like he's so cool he's completely motionless, and yet there's this amazing stream of melody.

Paul Cutler's picture

I saw Miles during the electric phase - I believe the album was "Bitches Brew". He was definitely not an entertainer, but he could blow. He could also smoke - I saw him take a drag on a cigarette that was probably half of it - blew out an enormous cloud and then continued playing.

I don't think anything defines that period graphically better than Blue Note. Really moody design in muted blues and purples, occasional splashes of color, progressive typography using the tools of the day, and very interesting photo treatments. Love it.

pbc

fontplayer's picture

I could picture the Beorcana italic on the cover of a book about Jazz. It looks be-boppy to me.
: )

(Coming from someone who missed out on a good part of Rock history he lived through because jazz was everything at the time)

David Rault's picture

If you take a look at the most influential graphic works on jazz - blue note records covers by reid miles - you'll understand that the standard he created uses a quite limited amount of typefaces, which you can use today without fear of schocking. these "helvetica of jazz types" would be clarendon, franklin gothic / news gothic / akzidenz condensed. now of course nothing holds you from using something else and create your own mood about it, but if i had a go on a project like this, i would definitely (at least) use a clarendon-like among my choices, and it would actually most probably be clarendon itself.

dr

J VILAS BOAS's picture

I create a logo for a Jazz restaurant few weeks ago!
I combined two fonts from the same type designer – Eric Gill!
Joanna was used for the logotype and Gill Sans for other stuff (ads...)

XO
J itsa JOTAOITENTA&CINCO

Miss Tiffany's picture

But what about the other side of Jazz? Sure Blue Note is absolutely — no argument here — the stereotypical essence of Jazz. But what about labels like ECM ( b. 1969) ? Their album covers, especially the earlier stuff, were a study in controlled cool.

(Don't get me wrong, I love Blue Note's album covers, how they embody the music, but they aren't the only Jazz music label which has great album covers.)

Paul Cutler's picture

ECM represents a completely different era of jazz than he's talking about. As much as I like some of the covers (and some of the early records were actually pretty good until they collapsed into new age jazz) I don't think that's the vibe.

One of the big problems with ECM records is that they engineered the life out of jazz. While stunning from a recording engineer perspective (and that is one I have) the pristine recordings are rather lifeless in retrospect, at least for me.

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

The artists mentioned are bop into cool though. I cut my teeth on the ECM releases and still love Ralph Towner. Even John Abercrombie makes the edge fuzzy having made In a Silent Way such a great recording before making his name on ECM.

Look at Riverside as well as Blue Note, and think about the production techniques that made that design style so solid.

Here's something to look at:

Also look at the Herbie Nichols complete box. It has three discs "in the style of", each with a slightly different flavor.

http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,138991,00.html

Paul Cutler's picture

I am not saying that jazz hasn't been very well engineered for many years - the Miles / Gil Evans collaborations come to mind. But there is a sheeniness that most of the ECM recordings have that doesn't stand the test of time for me. I loved it when I first heard it, that's when I was a record producer and engineer and that was definitely a leap forward, especially the cymbals, which had a sparkle that I hadn't heard before. I will assume (although I could be very wrong) that some of those first engineers for ECM had cut their teeth on classical music, perhaps at Deutsche Gramophone, since classical music was the laboratory for recording acoustic instruments and DG LPs were the gold standard.
It was a quantum leap in separation of sound, really amazing acoustic engineering, but for me the cleanness is antithetical to what I love about jazz.

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

My musical taste at 16 was suspect, but it still is now for that matter. That’s about the age I started buying ECM records. Later I got to the root of it. I did have a sweet little vertical linear tracking table at that age. I think it shaped my musical tastes a bit by virtue of making well recorded music sound good.

I’ve still got a copy of Timeless (a lovely package design) that will always be cherished for its title track.

Paul Cutler's picture

Musical taste is never suspect since it is completely subjective. As far as I'm concerned the opinion of a 12 year old that likes Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus is just as valid as Leonard Feather's. I would definitely rather read his writing though. -:)

The fact that you're a music fan is wonderful. I am not per se, because once I started playing instead of practicing I was interested in my own music too much to be a fan anymore.

There's music I like but I am not passionate about it and I rarely listen.

One of my criteria for judging music is whether I think that the artist wants to be a star or not. So I don't listen to popular music or radio. I have a large collection of gypsy music from around the world and I like it both musically and theoretically because in these societies musicians are no more important than bread bakers, which is how it should be in my opinion. I also like the fact that the gypsies are another class of scorned people, who have always had the best music because that's one of the only things that couldn't be taken from them.

My last musical "hero" was Fred Frith, who I think is still one of the finest instrumentalists in the improvisational world.

My collection ranges from Mauricio Kagel to Romica Puceanu, the gypsy siren of Romania. I have more CDs of sound effects than anything else.

My favorite series of covers are for Faust.

So it's a complicated mix…

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

Snakefinger FTMFW

I quit playing to be a fan and a graphic designer.

Paul Cutler's picture

I could never quit playing, it's the healthiest thing I can do for myself spiritually. I miss playing live, the rest of it can go to hell… -:)

pbc

Miss Tiffany's picture

I hear what you are saying about the "sheen". I am introduced to something new through my brother all the time. He is very good at explaining what is happening in the music to me. Although I have to admit some of the more atonal stuff is very jarring and takes several listens before I find something to enjoy.

What I was really talking about is the design of the album covers. The simplicity. Their use of Univers.

jupiterboy's picture

and that wonderful green record center with the silver ink.

I migrated to the ECM sound on my own looking for Jazz when I was young and didn't know what it was. I didn't really get it though until I got to NTSU/UNT. Summers at that school were so wonderful. No one followed sportsl, it was all about the horn players and the Jazz school. Like your brother, Love Supreme did a number on me and started me on the good foot.

Paul Cutler's picture

This looks very similar to the Deutsche Gramophone Avant Garde series covers. Interesting. They were cut out around 1973 and I picked them up for nothing. They were more minimal than this, just color and typography, very nice stuff. Long gone by now.

Couldn't find an example to post. They put out my favorite Mauricio Kagel LP "Der Schall".

Perhaps the Germans were collaborating or influencing each other.

pbc

Paul Cutler's picture

I did find this cover for Der Schall - pretty small so it's hard to make out. Basically the entire series were monotone gradients (banded like the ECM example) with typography. No other graphics.

pbc

Paul Cutler's picture

This is a photo of the packaging we did when we released "below the level of observation" by International Metal Supply. That was the last group I formed after finally quitting rock for good. The other player was a classically trained percussionist who had worked with Kagel and John Cage, among many others. We designed and built our own instruments, all metal with contact microphones. He is still one of my good friends and that was a really fun period of my life. The pinnacle of our performances was performing soundtracks to silent films. Really fun. I remember leaving my body during one of the performances.

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

Sounds like the Shellac mythos.

kegler's picture

Hey Paul that IMS CD is pretty cool. Where can one purchase on of those?

Paul Cutler's picture

Couldn't find that online. Are they from California? California has always been a hotbed of percussion inventors. From Harry Partch to Richard A. Waters to Kraig Grady in the modern day there have just been a lot of percussion instruments invented here. Harry Partch is well worth checking out - he created instruments from glass, his own microtonal scale that all his music is based on and he was impervious. When the classical world got interested in him he refused to take his instruments anywhere, just wasn't interested. I like that.

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

Chicago. Note the custom heads and Travis Bean. AKA Shellac of North America.

More fun.

Paul Cutler's picture

> Hey Paul that IMS CD is pretty cool. Where can one purchase on of those?

Limited edition sold out long ago. Thanks for your interest.

pbc

David Sudweeks's picture

On the subject of Reid Miles' cover work, which cut of Clarendon available today most closely approximates the one he used? I'm drawn to its charm.

Curiousity's picture

I like your site set up Nick. Brown seems like a good choice for the job.

I find it interesting how history often mandates the future when it comes to graphic treatment. I guess that's because they often had it right in the first place?

gulliver's picture

Also consider other great period Clarendon alternates such as Volta, Impressum or Egiziano.

David Thometz

Pieter van Rosmalen's picture

Parry by Artur Schmal, www.ourtype.be

pattyfab's picture

Wow that ourtype site is painful to use.

poms's picture

>Wow that ourtype site is painful to use.
No direct linking possible and that stuff, right. But the typesetter is grand, here it's possible to format a textblock in the different styles and weights of the typeface!

PS Parry is nice!

pattyfab's picture

It was more the flashing and scrolling I had trouble with. Good thing I don't have epilepsy.

William Berkson's picture

Soho would be another alternative. It is a very well done slab serif with a lot of punch and a contemporary look.

Paul Cutler's picture

Egiziano sounds about right to me - the remake is Giza - correct?

pbc

jupiterboy's picture

Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus uses a nice blocky slab for comparison.

poms's picture

>Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus uses a nice blocky slab for comparison.
Is this Rockwell Extra Bold?

jupiterboy's picture

Very well could be. My digital version looks less condensed and also the X doesn’t drag its back foot like that.

dezcom's picture

Italia?

ChrisL

heymendoza's picture

Wow, thanks for the suggestions. I'm glad it got people talking. I will take a look at all the typefaces suggested and see which one works. I'm really excited about the project now.

Paul Cutler's picture

Yes if you give us 10 minutes we will write a dictionary, and a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia, etc… :)

pbc

Co's picture

> Wow that ourtype site is painful to use.
> It was more the flashing and scrolling I had trouble with. Good thing I don’t have epilepsy.

Come on pattyfab, where is this bitterness coming from?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Patty wasn't being bitter. We're all free to have our own opinions, no?

pattyfab's picture

Thanks, Tiff. I didn't mean to sound bitter. There are a lot of foundry sites that are very hard to look at, or to use. They don't do themselves a service if they scare people away before we even get to the fonts.

William Berkson's picture

The current very annoying blinking at the beginning was not there earlier, I think; that's a real problem. The way you can easily blow up and test the fonts in all styles with your text is superb.

Co's picture

Pattyfab, I cannot speak on behalf of those 'a lot of foundry sites', but as far as ourtype site is concerned -- on one thing we might agree: ourtype site isn't a sample of middle-of-the-road-webdesign.

and yes, Tiff, long live the difference of opinions ;-)

gulliver's picture

Ah! For good, chunky, geometric slab-serifs like on the Sonny Rollins poster, check out Beton (Extra Bold), Stymie (Black) or similarly weighty veriants of Memphis or Rockwell.

David Thometz

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