August 30, 2006: The Album Covers of Burt Goldblatt
The multitalented Burt Goldblatt was born in Dorchester in 1924, and was residing in Hopkinton, Mass., at the time of his death on August 30, 2006. He was successful as an illustrator, caricaturist, photographer, and author, but many record lovers know him primarily as a designer of album covers. He designed some real beauties, such as the ones here, done for Boston jazz artists.
Goldblatt served in the Army during World War II, then studied at the Massachusetts College of Art. He worked in a print shop and mastered the technical processes of printing, freelanced as a commercial artist, and taught himself photography. He moved to New York in 1953 and for the next two years worked as a designer for CBS Television. He worked as a freelance photographer, art director at Metronome magazine, and album cover designer—jazz album covers, because that was his music. The bulk of his work was for labels like Savoy, Storyville, and Bethlehem.
When Goldblatt hit his stride, his covers achieved visual impact by combining simplicity and perspective—he’d use one strong image and a minium of type, and his point of view in that image would be from above or below, but rarely straight on. And he was able to experiment and innovate within his minimal designs, as with the Mariano and King LPs and the Braff EP here. Francis Wolff at Blue Note learned much from Goldblatt. There are many website designers today who could profit from his lessons as well.
Many of Goldblatt’s Bethlehem designs are online here. The few examples of others’ work are near the bottom of the page. You’ll see the difference.
Goldblatt worked on covers through the fifties and into the sixties, but rock brought a new generation of designers, and he moved on to other things, primarily writing. He wrote or edited some 17 books, often working with co-authors on illustrated histories. His book subjects extended far beyond jazz, and included the Marx Brothers, baseball, organized crime, and Carnegie Hall. But he contributed a pair of jazz books that included many of his photos: Burt Goldblatt’s Jazz Gallery One (Newbold Publishing, 1982), and Newport Jazz Festival (Dial Press, 1977). Both are sadly out of print, and used copies of Jazz Gallery One are hard to find.
Angelynn Grant studied Goldblatt’s work, and her interview with him, contained within a longer essay, is a must-read. Tyler Alpern also interviewed Goldblatt, and that’s here. Meanwhile, enjoy some of the covers he designed for Boston musicians.