David Stone Martin jazzes up music greats


April 11th, 2011

Listen Now

Album art, magazines and pamphlets are part of Dr. Sam Walker's personal Martin collection. (Photo credit to jazztimes.com)

Omaha, NE – Album art for the jazz greats of the 1940s and beyond had to be swinging, and album artist extraordinaire, David Stone Martin, was up to the task. His iconic art is now on display at the The Osborne Family Gallery in the Criss Library at UNO.

The late David Stone Martin was born in Chicago in 1913 and later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. By 1950, Martin’s distinctive art graced over one hundred covers of some of the greatest jazz musicians of the era. And by his career end in the early 1980’s, his album tally topped over 400.

He became a staple for the famous jazz producer Norman Franz along with musician greats Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. His bold, abstract ink lines almost mysteriously create vivid images of musicians and music in motion. Iconic, recurring themes such as loosely drawn keyboards overlap and stretch across some of the albums, inviting you to listen.

“Most of these are famous jazz artist’s … music stands on its own, but the cover added something additional. You could sit there, hold the cover and enjoy it,” said Dr. Sam Walker of UNO, the dedicated collector and owner of the David Stone Martin exhibit.

David Stone Martin’s talents extended past album art and graced the covers of Time and Downbeat Magazine. Martin also illustrated erotic pages to help tell the story of the seedy world of brothels.

“This also brings back a lost era,” Walker said. “There’s a period in our life when the album cover was an event…album covers were a vehicle for art. Now with compact discs, it’s just not the same, it’s an older era. A different part of our culture; something that’s kinda lost.”

And Dr. Walker is certainly an expert. He’s spent the last 35 years collecting pieces from a man he considers to be one of the best.

“The Jazz Art of David Stone Martin” is on display now with over a hundred pieces at the Osborne Family Gallery at the Criss Library at UNO through May 19th.

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