For me, Bethlehem Records is one of those inexplicable moments in jazz history. Its founder wasn't particularly interested in jazz, as for instance Norman Granz was, nevertheless he produced one of the most coherent bodies of work in jazz history. He gave his musicians and technicians enough freedom in recording which undoubtedly manifest itself on what we hear on records today.
Bethlehem is also the house of stylist vocalists and more than that the house of the bass. Some of the best early small combo sessions led by bassists were presented by the label, among which Oscar Pettiford, Milt Hinton, Charles Mingus and Red Mitchell stand out. This is of course way before experimental labels such as ECM and the sheer audacity of Bethlehem owner was largely missing among major labels of the period. No wonder, the label proved to be financially ruinous for its founder Gus Wildi.
The company originally started in 1953 as a pop music venue, but the failure in promoting its records forced Wildi to retreat to the less competitive field of jazz. They released 38 ten-inch LP records and then in 1955 changed over to 12-inch format. Bethlehem enjoyed presenting many great names in their catalogue, none of whom had long term contract with the label which in the process made it difficult for the financial survival of the label. In 1962, the company was sold to King Records who didn't properly taken care of the back catalogue and because of that, and some other sales, for years, the Bethlehem jazz albums remained scarce items.
What I've gathered here is the cover artworks of the 1000 series which was released on 10-inch LPs. The number ends in 40, but in reality only 38 records were released and number 38 and 39 were never issued.
|© Katherine Holzman|
About why Goldblatt was hired by the company, Mr Wildi told Tyler Alpern: "We recognized from our first 10 inch album release on, that the importance of the quality of the cover was underrated by the other companies. I believe then that Bethlehem was the first company to create covers with some artistic merit as opposed to use them akin to soap or soup advertisements. The covers were heavily laminated, wrapped around, and minimal type was used, giving off a feeling of quality and substance."
Burt Goldblatt, in his atelier, used photography, painting and drawing to achieve whatever effect he was looking for, effects and moods that were evoked by listening to the album itself and even being present at the recording session with his Hasselblad. His visual motives and themes were deserted streets, instruments in still life compositions, super large colour typeface, noirish images, low-angle shots, nature, solitude and animals with a special attention to owls. He also "eliminated long lists of song titles, one of the medium’s more obtrusive conventions," as he told the New York Time.
Goldblatt was constantly innovative and bound to try new methods of creating character for the record, as for Charlie Marioano Sextet (see blow) he X-rayed a saxophone and used it for the cover art.
This gallery, in order of release, is only composed of 1000 series (10'' LP). Some of them are UK editions, released by London Records, but the cover artwork is always the same as the original.
|BCP 1001 Chris Connor Sings Lullabys Of Birdland|
|BCP 1002 Chris Connor Sings Lullabys For Lovers|
|BCP 1003 Oscar Pettiford Modern Quintet|
|BCP 1004 Bobby Scott - Great Scott|
|BCP 1005 Ruby Braff Swings [UK edition]|
|BCP 1006 Hank D'Amico - Holiday With Hank|
|BCP 1007 Charlie Shavers - Horn O' Plenty|
|BCP 1008 Aaron Sachs Sextet|
|BCP 1009 Bobby Scott - East Coast Jazz/1|
|BCP 1010 Vinnie Burke - East Coast Jazz/2|
|BCP 1011 Pete Brown - Peter The Great [UK edition]|
|BCP 1012 Joe Puma - East Coast Jazz/3 [UK edition]|
|BCP 1013 Eddie Shu Quartet|
|BCP 1014 Jonah Jones Sextet [UK edition]|
|BCP 1015 Terry Pollard|
|BCP 1016 Conte Candoli - Sincerely, Conte|
|BCP 1017 Stan Levey Plays The Composition Of Bill Holman, Bob Cooper And Jimmy Giuffre|
|BCP 1018 Herbie Mann - East Coast Jazz/4|
|BCP 1019 Oscar Pettiford - Basically Duke|
|BCP 1020 Milt Hinton - East Coast Jazz/5|
|BCP 1021 Charlie Shavers - The Most Intimate|
|BCP 1022 Charlie Mariano Sextet|
|BCP 1023 Carmen McRae|
|BCP 1024 Stu Williamson - Sapphire|
|BCP 1025 Herbie Harper|
|BCP 1026 Bob Hardaway - Lou's Blue|
|BCP 1027 Helen Carr|
|BCP 1028 Max Bennett Quintet|
|BCP 1029 The Composition Of Bobby Scott, Vol. 2|
|BCP 1030 The Songs Of Bobby Troup|
|BCP 1031 Australian Jazz Quartet|
|BCP 1032 Ruby Braff - Holiday In Braff|
|BCP 1033 Red Mitchell - Happy Minor|
|BCP 1034 Ruby Braff - Ball At Bethlehem|
|BCP 1035 Dick Wetmore|
|BCP 1036 Paula Castle - Lost Love|
|BCP 1039 Joe DeRise|
|BCP 1040 Russ Garcia - Wigville|