Rating: 8.1/10 Rated as: Album Album Status: Genre Recommendation Released: 1960 Specific Genre: Cool Jazz Main Genre: Jazz Undertones: Third Stream Label: Atlantic
1 Vendome 2 Pyramid 3 It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing) 4 Django 5 How High the Moon 6 Romaine
Cool, but not loungy, progressive, but not sonically avantgardistic
There are no fundamentally weak releases in the Modern Jazz Quartet’s catalogue, but which albums would you recommend as their absolute top picks? That’s no trifling matter. Discounting their live albums, Pyramid is a slight contender among their studio work, with its focus on sophisticated vibraphone-and-piano duels that draw their power from subtlety bordering on inconspicuousness. The Modern Jazz Quartet had entered their phase as elderly statesmen, and alongside their (in my view) epochal Third Stream Music, they were ready to further test out the possibilities to turn their jazz quartet format into a chamber music style that could have potentially broken loose from either jazz or classical – yet without strings or clarinet, they end up on the slightly conventional side of cool, sneaky swing once more.
As such, this is a terrific jazz release: cool, but not loungy, progressive, but not sonically avantgardistic, minimalistic, but not sparse. It works just as well as background music as it does for an intense listening. Given the fact they barely seem to touch their instruments, these guys put down one mean swing.
This is a „failed project“ entry, up to this point anyway. I wanted to pick up a new hobby here, which would consist in researching, identifying and collecting people on album covers that are not the musicians themselves. Now, I knew that this in some cases would be easy: Some covers use famous models which are known, like Jerry Hall on the cover of Roxy Music’s Siren.
Other cases are more obscure, but some covers and bands are so famous that every detail about them is already researched, as is the case for Paul Cole, an American tourist who happened to be there on the right in the background when the Beatles took the Abbey Road cover. By his own account, he didn’t even know who the Beatles were at the time.
So I started sorting through my record collection and the first interesting fact is simple but telling: For about the first decade of commercial vinyl-Lps, there were basically no models on album covers other than the musicians. Covers were either impersonal artworks or featured the musician(s). Now, this is from a small sample and probably genre-skewed – I own mostly blues and jazz records from that period, only some commercial pop and classical, so I don’t know exactly how the chips fall there. But the first album in my collection to properly sport a human being that isn’t playing on said record turned out to be Lonely Woman (1962) by the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Now, how do you go about identifying that woman? The photographer is credited: Richard Heimann. Not a lot of information about him, but he seemed to be a glamorous guy in a glamorous world marrying and photographing glamorous models. The little information available really gives off this kind of Frank-Sinatra-movie-character.
If Richard Heimann took that picture, who is the model? I don’t know and I didn’t find out. There was a possible clue: He was married to Carmen Dell’Orefice from 1958–1960, the „oldest working supermodel“ in the business, as I learned. Actually, most of the information you find about Heimann stems from this marriage or interviews with Dell’Orefice, because she became super-famous, he didn’t. So this was at least a clue, and I looked at some of Dell’Orefices portraits before 1962. Here’s one from 1956:
Same style, but that’s just the general model look from that period. But it isn’t quite the same woman, is it? I tried to contact Dell’Orefice’s agency to confirm or at least deny that it is her on the album cover, but I couldn’t even get a proper contact address. At this point, the „research“ turned into random rummaging. Dell’Orefice was friends with another famous model from the time, a certain Suzy Parker. Now, Parker looks more like the woman on the cover, I think.
But it’s still just a basic guess – hair style and make up lead to a pretty homogenic look of the period. And I couldn’t find a picture of Parker that really convinces me – the one I picked here is the closest one, and it hardly fits the purpose of comparison. And, looking at coloured photos, she seemed to have reddish instead of dark hair most of the time.
Anyway, Suzy Parker was the sister of an even more famous model of the period, „the original supermodel“ Dorian Leigh (Parker). Let’s put some portraits next to the cover in question:
Well, it’s anyone’s guess. I’m a bit amazed at the homogenic style which probably goes for any period, but I have no idea who the model on the album cover is. The exercise stops here, at least until I am in a mood to try to find out if there is something like a Richard-Heimann–archive, which I didn’t find through official channels. And this is probably also the start and finish of the whole project. Who could’ve known. Another story of shame and misery.
And, well, feel free to contact me if you know anything about this.