Small labels are credited with discovering many big names in jazz today. Miles Davis and John Coltrane recorded for Prestige, while Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans recorded for Riverside. Unfortunately, the labels tended to lose their talent once the artist’s reputations became firmly established; Davis went to Columbia in 1955 and Monk in 1962, while Evans was signed by Verve. Other prominent jazz recording labels include Blue Note, Pacific, Impulse!, and Contemporary. The Tolley collection has a near complete collection of Thelonious Monk’s output on Riverside and Columbia, as well as many releases by Bud Powell.
As jazz artists began to embrace the 12” LP and create albums of both old and original material, the larger sleeve also opened up visual possibilities. The artwork and photography helped to also make jazz more tangible and accessible to broader audiences. Album covers served as an attractive marketing tool in this sense. Not only were cover photographs notable for their portrayal of the musicians, many of the most famous jazz albums also showcase abstract art. Artists such as Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, known for working in the abstract expressionist style, have been featured on albums by such artists as Dave Brubeck and Ornette Coleman, respectively. This is perhaps because of parallels often made between abstract expressionist’s methods and improvisation in jazz. This may be because of music, specifically jazz’s, perhaps inherent abstract nature because of its lack of preconceived ideas before performance. By the 1950s, jazz was of interest to artists based in New York and they turned to jazz for inspiration in their artistic processes. This interest was reciprocal when Coleman, originator of free-form jazz, also known as free improvisation, compared himself to Pollack, stating that “Pollock was in the same state I was in and doing what I was doing.”