Friday, 1:03pm
10 July 2009

Eyes and ears

John L. Walters’ BBC feature about jazzdesign, on the iPlayer until 13 July

Earlier this week, I had the chance to live out my boyhood fantasy of being a late-night jazz DJ, writes John L. Walters. Well, I was actually commissioned to write and present a short (16') feature about the relationship between jazz and graphic design. (So it wasn’t exactly Clint Eastwood in Play Misty For Me, or ‘Lester the Nightfly’.)

Top: cover painting by Mati Klarwein. Design: John Berg.
Below: cover design by Reid Miles.


And you don’t have to put up with my English accent all the time – there’s music, and five guests with strong views on the subject: art director and design writer Adrian Shaughnessy, Stephen Doyle (of Doyle Partners in NYC), Dave McKean (below), filmmaker Marc Silver (formerly of Yeast, now working with Jamie Cullum) and animator Michal Levy.


You can still hear the show, (my feature is about sixteen minutes long, and starts 22 minutes into the programme) at any time of day or night, courtesy of the BBC’s iPlayer, The audio stream is available until late next Monday 13 July, when it will be replaced by next week’s show. Jazz on 3 is British radio institution, presented by Jez Nelson, and this edition features some new releases, and a live set and interview with Joe Lovano.

Miles Bitches Brew

Above: cover painting by Mati Klarwein. Design: John Berg.

But even if you haven’t yet ‘grown jazz ears’ (to quote ThinkingType), I hope you’ll find it interesting to hear a short feature about graphic design on the radio – design and type are subjects that rarely get covered on national radio, even when they’re in the news.

John Gilsenan, of IWANT Design (see ‘The graphic designer as illustrator‘ in Eye 72), was also very helpful in the research for the programme. IWANT have just completed the identity design for the forthcoming London Jazz Festival (example, below).


Below: cover illustration by David Stone Martin.


Graphic design for jazz is a subject that’s been covered in Eye several times (and before my time). Adrian Shaughnessy wrote ‘Think of your ears as eyes’ a highly influential article about ECM records in Eye no. 16. And Robin Kinross wrote ‘Cool, clear, collected’, about the graphic design of Blue Note’s classic era in Eye no. 1 vol. 1. (Both issues are unfortunately out of print.)

Jazz on 3 web page. Playlist:

Oliver Nelson’s ‘Stolen Moments’, from Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse)

Art Tatum’s version of ‘Makin' Whoopie’

Lee Morgan’s ‘Morgan the Pirate’, Search for the New Land (Blue Note)

Miles Davis’s ‘Funky Tonk’, from Live-Evil (Columbia)

Jan Garbarek’s ‘Selje’, from Triptykon (ECM)

Pat Metheny’s The Way Up (Nonesuch)

Iain Ballamy and FOOD playing ‘Medallion’ from Organic & GM Food (Feral)

Bill Frisell’s ‘Boubacar’ from The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch)

Jason Lindner Big Band’s Suheir’ from Live at the Jazz Gallery (Anzic)

John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ (Atlantic)

Producer: Kath Wilgress

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.