Sleeve notes: Shaz Madani on The Jazz Messengers

Five music-lovers from the world of art and design share the album artwork that has stuck with them since they first laid eyes on it, and the effect the music itself had on their life and work.
Last in the series, Shaz Madani.

Shaz Madani spends her days designing spectacular, pick-up-able printed matter from her London studio. As well as being the brains behind each issue of smart women’s magazine Riposte, she has also worked on projects for Elephant Magazine, the V&A, LCC and the Wellcome Trust. Clients flock to her for the elegant, innovative but curiously modern touch she seems to have with print design.


Here she is on her love for the Blue Note jazz style, in particular Jazz Messengers at the Café Bohemia, and the influence it has had on her work:

“I’d like to say before I get into the music that my typographic fetish may have swayed my choice a little. The Blue Note style jumped out to me before I knew a thing about jazz. Its expressive, irreverent use of space and bold huge type just screams out to be played.

But it wasn’t until I started properly listening to jazz that I realised how much this design relates to the music. It’s almost a literal depiction of the freeform, fun and madness in the record. A visual protest to traditional graphic design as the music was a protest to predictable bebop of the ‘40s.

The funny thing is this cover, and the many others designed by Reid Miles, just work so well as a 12″ sleeve but almost disappear as a 150px square on iTunes. I’d like to think this isn’t just about the romance of vinyl but about the actual size that Ried wanted his text, as big and bold a visual slap as it is a sonic one. Although Miles has stated he didn’t even like jazz, let alone design his sleeves to sound like the music, I feel like the attitude of this generation sank into the music and art that defined the times.

When I think about this cover and it’s music I can’t help of think of the whole Blue Note style. Whether it was about cropping tightly into photographs, breaking down the words, using repetition and strips of monotone colour — the arrangement of type and photos where always handled with such finesse and balance that you feel if a single element was removed the whole thing would collapse.

(Note: The cover to The Jazz Messengers at the Café Bohemia is technically credited to John Hermansader, the company’s then art director. But it was designed while Miles had just stared working there and he almost certainly had a significant contribution.) makes it the perfect fit.

See more work from Shaz Madani
Read more Sleeve Notes

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