Book Review: California Cool

California Cool

I recently reviewed the other serious look at West Coast jazz cover art in Jazz West Coast: Artwork of Pacific Jazz Records (English and Japanese Edition), though that book celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Pacific Jazz with 225 covers that predominately used the musician photos taken by Bill Claxton. Graham Marsh's book mostly concentrates on Contemporary and Pacific Jazz covers with a few from other jazz labels.

The book's nearly twelve inch size helps display the art especially as each right-hand page has one big bleed cover; the facing page has four covers all four inches square. All the covers have a short caption with label and art credits.

A comment I made about the Jazz west Coast book equally applies to this one: `Though the book's contents now have a delightful period flavor I don't think the covers overall were particularly well designed. The easy option was mostly taken by using a Claxton photo or graphic and just putting some type with the title and artist on top. None of these designs had the graphic punch of Blue Note's distinctive style or the brilliant drawings of David Stone Martin that brightened up labels run by Norman Grantz'.

Look through the book and it's clear that the Contemporary Records had a cooler look than the output of Pacific Jazz. Contemporary sported cleaner cover typography for the titles and chose better photos of the musicians. I think the best covers were designed by Robert Guidi and his Tri Art studio.

For me the book is a bit of nostalgia as I had many of these LPs (and I've had to replace them with CDs which thankfully use the original cover designs) but it is a good sampling of American graphic design now decades old.

California Cool is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN)

California Cool - 01

California Cool - 02

California Cool - 03

California Cool - 04

California Cool - 05

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