The book was a project I started without a publisher. I had the idea for an abecedary of jazz musicians, made a list of one for each letter of the alphabet, and started working on the images in-between my other assignments. Because there was no deadline, and there was the strong possibility that these would never see the light of day, I decided to do whatever I wanted with them, and to borrow (you're right . . . steal) from the artists I admired from each era that the jazz musician is associated with. The list of artists includes Stuart Davis, Paul Rand, Miquel Covarrubias, the forgotten French designer Pierre Merlin, Al Hirshfeld, Juan Gris, David Stone Martin, and Alex Steinweiss.
When Jazz ABZ was published I sent a copy of the book to Mr. Steinweiss, with a note telling him he was a big inspiration on the project, and I hoped he‘d like the book. Steinweiss was the first artist to design graphics for album covers in 1940 for Columbia Records, he’s 92 and living in Sarasota, FL. About a week later I received a note back saying very nice things about the book and inviting me to visit him if I was ever in Florida, so after the opening, Jill and I are driving down to spend a few hours with the master. If you haven't seen the new Taschen book on Steinweiss career, here's a link.
Last spring, Nicky Lindeman from SpotCo called for a poster for Seattle’s The 5th Avenue Theatre production of ‘On the Town.’ The classic musical tells the story of three sailors on the loose in NYC, “three sailors as they try to cram a lifetime of romance and excitement into a day-long adventure in the city that never sleeps!” No tigers, no lost teeth, no roofies. SpotCo wanted the look of a classic Broadway show poster, they sent me a rough sketch, and I offered to include the typography in the illustration in order to get the right feeling for the poster.
Here's SpotCo's sketch, my first sketch and a couple of color comps.
Nicky and everyone at SpotCo are total pros, and they were a pleasure to work with on this one. The production will be staged April 13- May 2, 2010.