Best Jazz Album Covers of the ’60s

The best jazz album covers of the 1960’s are masterpieces of design. These perfect visual compliments to the mind bending music found within the record sleeves are some of the great cover designs of all time. Behold our list, head out to your local record store, and check out the albums themselves.

  1. The best jazz album cover of the 60’s is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”. Released in April 1970, the album was recorded and designed in ’69. The cover is a psychedelic tableau of storm fronts, roiling oceans, African peoples, and a massive flaming flower. The back of the gatefold prominently displays a cosmic witchdoctor floating in space. The four-disc box set released in 1998 has expanded wrap-around artwork that is as gorgeous as the record is revolutionary.
  2. The second best jazz album cover of the 1960’s is Sun Ra’s “Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy”. The supremely abstract cover design, a series of beige swirls and spirals against a deep blue background, is perfectly suited to the record’s celestial title. Though the likeness may be coincidental, psychedelic guitar heroes Comets on Fire’s “Blue Cathedral,” released in 2004, has a similarly blue and abstract design. Their jazzy riff fests are easily the progeny of Sun Ra’s space jazz.
  3. The third best jazz album cover of the 60’s, The Modern Jazz Quartets “Under the Jasmine Tree,” is a progressive aesthetic amalgam of psychedelic art and Japanese woodblock prints. A serpentine coil with a fanned head winds its way through the otherwise gray cover. The figure, possibly an artist’s rendering the eponymous Jasmine Tree, is tattooed with kissing lovers, a smiling sun, a crying moon, disembodied breasts, a flock of birds, and a smiling woman with bells in her hair.
  4. The fourth best jazz album cover of the 60’s is a master class in simplicity. The sleeve for Pharoah Sanders’ “Izipho Zam” is a series of black and white snapshots of the band rehearsing and recording the record. A group of photos interspersed throughout the cover create a large mosaic of Pharoah himself blowing the sax. Plenty of similar covers appeared before and after “Izipho Zam”, though few were as elegant or masterful.
  5. The fifth best jazz album cover of the 60’s , Jaki Byard’s “Sunshine of my Soul”, displays a winning combination of overwhelming queerness, extreme earnestness, and what seems to be a visual homage to the Gerber baby food label. A gigantic swirling sunflower consumers the cover. Sat in the center of the flower is Jaki’s beaming, borderline obese visage smiling in a way that makes your wonder whether he’s elated or terrified.
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