It’s an honor to have designed the poster for the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. I’ve been traveling down to New Orleans for JazzFest since 1989 and it’s the best music festival in the world. So much great music has come out of The Crescent City over the years and there are so many fantastic musicians living there now, that it’s possible to hear wonderful live music every night of the year, and at JazzFest the choices are overwhelming.
The poster series is one of the most collected series in the world and many great artists have created designs for it since 1975. These are limited edition serigraphs, (this year’s is nineteen colors) and there’s an edition that is signed by the artist and also the featured performer. I did the poster in 2002 that featured Wynton Marsalis, and the 2016 poster features the legendary Ellis Marsalis Jr. and his four musician sons, Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. Over the years I’ve become friends with the publisher, Bud Brimberg, and every year we talk about his plans for the poster, the artists he’s working with, and possible subjects. Every year I say the same thing, “When are you going to feature Ellis Marsalis?” This year when he suggested we make a portrait of the family, I jumped at the chance to make a companion piece to the 2002 poster.
There’s a reception on Wednesday, April 20th at Royal House Gallery, 813 Royal Street, New Orleans from 4:00 – 7:00 pm, for me and the Congo Square poster artist, the great George Hunt. I’ll be showing some sketches for the poster and a few ink-on-paper drawings of New Orleans musicians and nightclubs. If you’re in town, come by.
Posters by: Sharon Dinkins & Thorn Grafton, Maria Laredo, Stephen St. Germain, Richard Thomas,
Francis Pavy, George Rodrigue, James Michalopoulos, Bill Hemmerling, Doug Bourgeois, Tony Bennett (yep), and Terrance Osborne.
This year's Congo Square poster is a tribute to the late B.B. King by George Hunt.
I started off trying to pack the musicians into a pose that echoed a group shot of Louis Armstrong and King Oliver's band. I was also thinking about the mural in the Sazerac Bar at
The Roosevelt Hotel
Sazerac Bar murals by Paul Ninas
Color sketch that we eventually abandoned.
First sketches of the House of Swing idea
I got to spend some valuable time with Ellis Marsalis Jr, last week when he came in to sign the edition. He told some great stories and said he's thinking of writing a memoir.
TBT: Wynton and me signing the 2002 edition.
A picked up a book called New Orleans Jazz, A Family Album in a used bookshop and started making these drawing from the photos inside. These will be at Royal House Gallery.
The Arena Stage in Washington DC has been producing beautifully illustrated posters for years. Art director Nicky Lindeman called to see if I’d design a poster to be part of their 2014-5 season, for “Five Guys Named Moe.” a musical revue of Louis Jordan songs written by the great actor Clarke Peters (The Wire and Treme.) Anyone who has listened to Louis Jordan records knows that his music is filled with a lot of energy and humor, and chickens. I tried to bring some of those qualities to this design.
These pieces from the Harlem Renaissance served as inspiration for the style of the poster, Winold Reiss, left, Miguel Covarrubias, right.
I also brought a little Juan Gris to this one.
Rough thumbnail sketches, the story begins when five guys named Moe pop out of a radio to give advice about life, drinking and big-legged women.
One of my favorite projects of the year was this illustration for a CD issue of music from the movies of Grace Kelly for Milan Records in France. This is about the sixth or seventh cover I’ve done for them and they always seem to call for subjects that I’m already interested in.
For this one Milan sent me a list of pictures that would be included in the collection and I decided to put Grace in the apartment from “Rear Window” with added elements from the other movies on the list. That’s a framed photo of Tex Ritter who sings the theme song from “High Noon” on the desk with a clock, Bing Crosby’s hat and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet from “High Society” are on the chair, the Cote’ D’ Azur poster and the cat drawing are from “To Catch a Thief.” That’s Alec Guiness as Prince Albert from “The Swan,” and the scissors and phone are from “Dial M for Murder.” The lucky guy in the wheelchair is L.B. Jefferies and Lisa Carol Fremont is about to play some records for him. Grace is wearing a dress by Edith Head and that’s a Hermes Kelly bag on the desk, but you all already knew that.
The biggest challenge for me on this one was to make a good likeness of Grace Kelly in a style that fit the period and also worked for a contemporary audience.
Illustrator outline, those rectangles are placed texture files made from scans of air-brushed ink on paper.
Milan always does a nice job with the design of the booklet and disc, and they always send me a box of CDs. A great client.
My favorite new client, Milan Music in Paris, is re-issuing a lot of great American music and film soundtracks.They recently called for a couple of CD covers. The first is for a collection of songs composed by Harold Arlen, who wrote the music for “The Wizard of Oz” plus a lot of songs that have become standards of the American Songbook. Arlen had a long career writing for Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. I imagined him at work in a “David Hockney meets Mister Magoo” version of his Beverly Hills home.
The second cover is for a collection of hits by Eddie Cochran, the sharp-dressing rockabilly star whose career was cut short in a car accident when he was 21. Eddie made a lot of records from 1957-1960, and is probably best known for “Somethin’ Else” and “Summertime Blues.”
Here’s the second in the series of CD covers I’m doing for the wonderful French record label, Editions Milan Music. The entire brief I received from them was two words, “Fats Domino.”
There’s probably no other living artist that’s more associated with New Orleans than Fats. He rarely leaves town, and he even turned down an invitation to the White House because he didn’t want to travel; he says he can’t find the food he likes anywhere except the Crescent City. I had the idea to make Fats bigger than life and sitting on the rooftops of the town he loves. One building is also an upright piano and the Dew Drop Café is his stool.
There’s a little bit of Magoo and UPA in this one
Here’s a piece for the Playboy Jazz Festival Program to accompany an article by Don Heckman about the state of big bands in America today. Some think of big bands as dinosaurs but if you do some digging you can find a pretty vital scene in almost every major city.
This piece certainly shows the influence of Jim Flora and the great Cliff Roberts. I’ve been doing illustrations for the annual festival for about twenty-five years now, but still no invitation to the mansion.
Got a call (well, e-mail) from Milan records in France asking if I’d be interested in doing some jazz record covers.
My answer was yes, and the first one is for the great Nina Simone. Here’s the liner notes:
(Nina pour « la gamine » en espagnol. Simone en hommage à
Signoret.) La trajectoire de Nina Simone (née Eunice Kathleen Waymon) est
unique. Elle porte une vision artistique et politique, une musique qui
transcende les genres musicaux et les préjugés. « Je veux secouerles gens en profondeur, délibérément. Quand ils sortent de monconcert, je veux qu’ils soient en pièces. » C’est dans cet état que l’on
se retrouvera en écoutant les titres de ce collector : en pièces, mais
aussi réjouis et libérés.
La couverture originale de cet album a été réalisée par l’un des plus
grands illustrateurs américains actuels : Paul Rogers. Passionné de
musique et de jazz, il a travaillé en particulier pour Wynton Marsalis
et Bob Dylan.
The art director Franck Laurent, wanted a bluesy drawing of Nina at the piano, I kept thinking of this book cover by one of my all-time favorites, Miguel Covarrubias. The blue color was my idea.
It doesn’t happen every day that you meet one of your heroes. When that meeting turns into a friendship and then a collaboration, you know you’ve been blessed.
Wynton and I met almost twenty years ago, for a poster project that we both signed. Since then I designed a poster for The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that depicted him in his Crescent City hometown, we’ve worked together on two books, and I spent a week out on the road with him and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra making sketchbook drawings.
Wynton has won a Pulitzer, nine Grammys and numerous other citations and honors, he has been an inspiration to many, many musicians and people who are making their way in the world as artists. Whenever we meet, he always acknowledges the accomplishment of survival with the words “So, we’re still out here.”
I’ve admired so much about him, the way he leads fifteen of the greatest jazz musicians of any era in the JALC Orchestra, the way he sits with young musicians who bring their instruments to a concert hoping for advice from the maestro, and his thoughtful writing and lectures on the important place that jazz music holds in our history and culture. I’ve seen him working on a symphony in a hotel room with no piano, and I’ve seen him stay late after a gig talking to fans until it’s just him and the guy locking the place up.
Tuesday is Wynton’s 50th birthday. There has been a week-long series of concerts at JALC’s Rose Theater featuring special guests and some serious swing. I wish I was there acknowledging the accomplishment.
Sketches for New Orleans Jazz & Hertiage Festival, 2002
Colored-pencil sketch for poster
Seventeen color silk-screen poster
Wynton at soundcheck in Atlanta
Here's a preview of our second book for Candlewick Press, our first book, Jazz ABZ is still in print, (turns out kids love books with Coleman Hawkins in them.) The new book is a picture book for young readers about sounds titled Squeak, Rumble, Whomp Whomp Whomp! We're trying to get it finished while we're still on this earth. It's scheduled for Fall 2012.
Here’s a recent drawing I did for Omega Lifestyles Magazine of the bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding. She’s nominated for a Grammy in the Best New Artist category, she’ll have to beat out a girl named Justin Beiber.
Cathy Gilmore-Barnes at The New York Times called for a portrait of Stephen Sondheim to accompany a review of Sondheim’s new book of annotated lyrics. The review was written by another great songwriter, Paul Simon. My job was to not screw it up.
I sent three sketches, a Times Square background, a backstage background, and the ol' 'letters in the head' trick.