Blue Note Records has embodied the best jazz has to offer for over 80 years. With a catalog of greats, from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordo and countless others from the bop and post-bop eras, to the funky recordings that hip-hop artists have repeatedly sampled, to its current roster, the label remains at the forefront of the genre.
It wasn’t just the music that set the label apart from the rest. Founders Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff also knew that the look of a record could be as compelling as the sound. While both were omnipresent in the studio during seminal recordings, it was Wolff who brought his camera, snapping photos of the artists as they performed or kicked back between takes. Cover-designer Reid Miles was the man who took these images and created magic.
Born in Chicago and raised in California, Miles attended Chouinard Art Institute in LA after a stint in the navy. Eventually relocating to New York City, he worked at Esquire magazine for a time and was brought in by Wolff to design the label’s album covers. The work he crafted would come to define the label as much as the music. “A canon of work so individually styled that a Reid Miles sleeve was as recognizable as the trumpet timber of Miles Davis or the plaintive phrasing Billie Holiday...creating sleeves that transcended the mugshots and mysticism of other genres’ sleeves.” (Felix Cromey, Blute Note: The Album Cover Art)