Burt Goldblatt: Shaping the cool jazz era

Next in the series of album cover design is Burt Goldblatt.

Burt Goldblatt was an instrumental force in shaping the style and sensibility of the cool jazz era, employing film noir-influenced photography, expressionistic portraits, and abstract imagery to capture the late-night, neon-lit atmosphere of the jazz world. Born in Dorchester, MA, in 1924, Goldblatt served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and after returning from duty he studied at the Massachusetts College of Art. Upon graduating he worked in a printing plant, an experience that afforded him the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business from negative-stripping to plate-making. In his spare time, Goldblatt also taught himself photography, eventually relocating to Boston to pursue a career as a freelance artist, and in 1950 created his first LP cover, a Billie Holiday bootleg sleeve for the Jolly Roger label. In 1953 Goldblatt settled in New York City, accepting a job with CBS Television and designing promotional campaigns and broadcast credit sequences for the series Rawhide and Bachelor Father. He also expanded his album cover portfolio via efforts for Decca and Atlantic, designing more than 200 sleeves in 1955 alone. Goldblatt’s distinctive approach eschewed song titles and other textual clutter in favor of abstract caricatures, idiosyncratic perspectives, and expressive typography. A habituĂ© of jazz clubs and recording studios, he also shot myriad photographs, employing many for subsequent cover art projects. Jazz artists revered Goldblatt and his interpretations of their personas, and the great pianist Bud Powell even wrote a song in his honor. The majority of the artist’s work dates to the mid- to late ’50s and small labels like Savoy and Bethlehem. The emergence of rock & roll and its accompanying visual aesthetics brought his career in music to an end, but Goldblatt made a successful transition into writing, co-authoring 17 books including Starring Fred Astaire and Baseball’s Best. He died of congestive heart failure in Boston on August 30, 2006.

Quoted from an retrospective article at Allmusic by Jason Ankeny

See much more of his work at Birka Jazz. There is also an excellent article in the NY Times on his life and career.