The Top 10 Jazz Album Covers of All Time

These classic discs look as good as they sound

Ornette Coleman
Change of the Century (Atlantic)

If there could be a formula for a great album cover, it would start with a great image, whether an illustration or a photo. Many of the world’s greatest photographers have contributed to record covers, often as one-shot deals. In the case of Lee Friedlander and Atlantic Records, the photographer and label worked together to create an image for African-American music that still resonates today. Check out the Atlantic albums by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Les McCann, and other great jazz, blues, and soul artists to see the visual magic—the white backdrop with gritty color images worthy of the National Portrait Gallery. Also in that formula should be groundbreaking music by an innovative and influential artist. This is just one of several albums by Ornette that deserve such a description, and like many from that era with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, it did create quite the stir in the jazz world. What’s amazing is that this provocative recording from 1959 sounds utterly fresh and modern today.

Listen to, buy or download Change of the Century on Amazon!