Surgeon General’s Warning: Smokin’ Covers

Final Updates: at foot of post (February 13)

Another ever-popular jazz record cover theme. We’ve had the good, we’ve  the had the bad, now it’s time (cough cough) dyin’ for a smoke: smokin’ covers ( no thanks, just tobacco in mine) Never mind smoke-free zone, this  is briefly a political-correctness-free zone.


Light up an Embassy. That was before people in some parts of the world took the invitation literaly.

Storage find! New old stock  ’60s cigarettes –  guaranteed non-injurious, from the days before the link with, umm, death, bad stuff and like  – inhale to your hearts content!

ashtray-overflowing2A Sixties-themed jazz record party, the ash-trays are overflowing, beg change for the cigarette machine, light up and enjoy, go back to those times when everyone smoked (not just the girls). Smoking looked cool, never mind what it did to your lungs. 

E-cigarettes will never look cool, overtones of health and safety. Theashtray-overflowing whole point is living for the moment, not living forever, that’s for squares.

Bill Hicks was the man:

“I‘m a two a day guy”. Packs? “No, lighters”.

A lot of my friends have quit smoking, afraid of cancer. Bloody cowards”.

Make your nominations for greatest smokin’ jazz covers. These are my nine for starters. Nine is good as it makes three columns by three rows, which fill the whole screen, like a smoke-filled room.


If we get enough good nominations, I will launch a Poll to find the smokiest of them all. You call them out, I’ll post ’em up.

Tranche 2: the good Dottorjazz has thrown in some crackers. Dolphy in Europe, with Meerschaum, that is so cool we need a pipe subsection;  Miles does pimp-aesthetic In Person; then lights up a blowtorch in Steamin’. Archie Shepp’s Three For a Quarter mysterious, spiritual; Mingus gets bonus points for smoking in an astrakhan hat, that’s for intellectuals. Herbie Nichols exudes class with suit and tie with pocket handkerchief, the cigarette is essential part of the ensemble, while Freddie Redd can smoke and play at the same time handsfree, unlike Booker Ervin, who needs to take a smoke break, like Hank.

I’m beginning to get an insight now. In a “smokin’ cover” the cigarette, pipe, and smoke-swirls  need to be integral to the design concept of the cover, say something about the attitude of the artist, not just a guy who incidentally happens to have a cigarette in hand. And lighting a cigarette is a special moment, when you get to  inhale  phosphor as well as tar. It’s all so theatrical, with the hand movements shielding the match.  Great style.


More Dottorjazz choices, plus few of my own. Coltrane: is that what they call a cheroot? Miles with bow tie, Mingus chomping on a grown up cigar, that’s attitude (the hat again) . I like the Hampton Hawes penetrating stare offset by his hand, which is what pianists use to play piano with, the cigarette is a strong focal design point off-centre. Harold and Nat are smoking, but the curved ball is Mingus’ Tijuana cat-house belle, at least two things that might be bad for your health on just one cover.


More soon, keep ’em coming, but remember the rule: jazz, smoking, attitude. This is a cultural artefact of ’50s 60s jazz life, about not living a healthy lifestyle. Mingus down the gym, no way

More incoming – wow, Stitt, Zoot, Elvin, Hawkins, they are all smokin’! The Stitt has to be up there with the best, fingers flying rather than just takin’ a cigarette break. Hank picks up bonus points for getting the cigarette pack into the picture as well, and a bottle of beer. The Hartman, that’s just creepy, too close for comfort.


Cigarettes were so sociable. No need for chat up lines, texting, sexting, speed dating, eHarmony, all that social media stuff. At a party, the prettiest girl selects the most eligible bachelor, wanders over cigarette in hand, wide-eyed, and asks innocently  “Do you have a light?”. (If he hasn’t, she will offer him one). “Is that your Corvette parked outside?”

Some cracking Blue Notes here, Francis Wolff understands the value of cigarettes as portraiture props, they add interest.


Harry Edison (bottom right) is so beguiled by the lady he hasn’t noticed the club smoke alarm isn’t working.  Stitt’s Satan is flanked by hell fire and brimstone – the devil has the best tunes. Most of the others are just drawing on a ciggie, as one did, part of daily life. Strange way we smokers lived (I was a two packs a day smoker once), always making sure you had a packet of cigarettes and a lighter with you at all times, back of your mind knowing how many there are left in the packet, knowing where you could get another pack should you run out. It is almost as though it were a drug.


Grant Green never really managed to put the cigarette centre stage. Here showing the correct way to mount a cigarette in the strings of the guitar neck (Eric Clapton, 1966) upright or sideways, according to preference.


Special category, Best Dutch Smokin’ Jazz cover only entry goes by default to Ben Webster Ben Op Zijn Bost. Also number one a field of one, best Blind Under-Age Pipe Smoking cover, Introducing Eric Kloss. Somebody get an extinguisher, tell Rusty Bryant he’s on fire. And  Don Patterson  dyslexic? Who’d have thought it.


I’m being selective now, I want a few more smokin’ covers, not just the guys having a smoke, if you get my drift.

Thank you jazz cover lovers, coughing  up some more gems. While there are many puns on “Smokin'”, full marks to Russ for spotting the very original  Dave burns. While Ray Bryant corner-of-the-mouth cigarette looks suave, head cocked at a jaunty angle , Anthony Braxton’s car crash of a cover  manages to get everything wrong – chunky knitted roll-neck sweater with snowflake front pattern, rimless spectacles (not shades) furrowed brow under afro mop, rounded of with what looks like a left-handed pipe stuck in the corner of his mouth (but no smoke, think Dolphy in Europe). Add a crooked horizon line and flat tonal range, is there anything left to get wrong? Yes, the music. I never liked Braxton. He sounds like his jumper looks.

The Monk cover is so outrageously over the top (and probably over-budget) that Monk’s cigarette is about the only thing bringing a touch of normality into the picture.


Any more for any more? These are what I have just found, including a really great cover from Bethlehem’s Burt Goldblatt.  We are picking up more pipe-smokers now, including one cover of Oscar Peterson (centre) referring to “my favourite instrument” while apparently staring down at his crotch – it takes a few minutes to figure out he means his keyboard, and a very eccentric bent pipe.

Paul Bley has an odd pipe too, as does Billy Butler. Are we getting close to some insight?  I smoked a pipe briefly in the ’60s – I think I counted it in weeks – horrible smelly things – but smoking them had a lot of ritual involved, packing and tamping the pipe, firing up the combustion in the bowl, projected the pipe smoker as someone  solid, calm, unflappable,  dependable. (Style-observers said the same about lace-up shoes compared with elastic-sided boots).  Complete baloney of course, but that is how things seemed.  In reality it merely transferred the anatomical site of your future cancer from lung to mouth.

The Dizzy Reece I had overlooked (Tubby Hayes solos on ‘Round about Midnight!), another of those atmospheric “moment of ignition” shots that photographs so well, as they cast dramatic light and shadow on the portrait.


You may notice how we do “depth” here: persistence is rewarded with more discovery. Some great stuff you guys have found – the Wallington is seriously cool, and Roy Haynes dapper blazer and slacks are perfectly partnered by a cigarette holder and white trophy-hound. Lucky Thompson pulls off one of the first jazz product placement wheezes for his namesake Luckies. Camels are still looking in vain for a placement opportunity.


And still they come! Lester Leaps in with our first smoking cat. But who is that cat at the bottom right? Seems familiar!


Were coming towards the last gasp. Just some smokin’ covers I forgot to remember, and some I’m trying to forget. Poster Alun mentioned Mal Waldron, so I finally got round to picking out a couple, including Mal looking marvelously sinister on the  Enja cover, One-Upmanship (in which Steve Lacy emulated the Seagulls of somewhere unpronounceable in Scandinavia).  Philly Joe is smirking and looking just a trifle camp in his black roll-neck and silver medallion, a cheroot completing his ensemble. Monk’s Black Lion session features Monk sporting a leather cap topped with an iced cupcake and glace cherry. That or a shaft for attaching a propeller.

Hutcherson demonstrates the now long-forgotten art of smiling while gripping a cigarette vice-like with your teeth – otherwise it just drops out the mouth, which doesn’t impress L.A. chicks.

Our only European entry, on MPS, illustrates in stop/motion frames the art of firing up a  Zippo lighter, the essential accessory for every style-conscious  European teen smoker. It took many hours of practice to casually flick open the cap with the thumb and then strike down on the wheel to generate the spark from the flint to light the wick,  in one seamless motion. As easy as falling off a skateboard. That’s the whole thing with cool: we invested a great deal of effort in making something look effortless. (The equivalent of the famed Dolly Parton line – “you know, it costs a lot of money to look this cheap”)


As far as any one knew, cigarettes were good for you, or at least they couldn’t be that bad…



Why else would doctors recommend Luckies and Camels? (Because it generated more patients for them, perhaps, LJC?)




52 thoughts on “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smokin’ Covers

  1. Being a non-smoker who hates being exposed to cigarette smoke, I still object to itunes taking the fag out of Bobby Timmons’ mouth on their own “This Here” cover. Ridiculous PC, and another reason for me to keep well clear of them.

    • Another case in point:
      The original cover shows Stan The Man with cigarette,

      while “modern” re-issues have the expurgated version:

  2. I’d forgotten the Barry Harris “Preminado” – what a great picture! Facepalming while smoking – I wonder if it was a long and difficult recording session?

    • What an extraordinary album, by the way! Composer/pianist Wallington at his very best, with arranger Quincy Jones very much in a “Birth of the Cool” vein. Add to this, fantastic sound from way back 1954 …

  3. This is Tooo much fun!!

    Billy Butler – This is Billy Butler!
    Red Garland – High Pressure
    Coleman Hawkins – Night Hawk
    Wes Montgomery – So Much Guitar
    Jimmy Knepper – A Swinging Introduction
    Wild Bill Jennings – Enough Said!
    Roy Haynes – Cymbalism
    Jack McDuff – Goodnight It’s Time to Go
    Howard McGee – The Return of..

  4. Charles McPherson – Bebop Revisited (Stateside/EMI: a major contender for the title)
    Rusty Bryant – Soul Liberation (Prestige: ugh ugh, smoke assured)
    Don Patterson – Funk You (Prestige: one of many smokin’ DP covers)
    Eric Kloss – Introducing Eric Kloss / Love And All That Jazz (Prestige: a 16 year old pipe smoker, why not?)
    Ben Webster – Ben Op Z’n Best (WestSide: a Dutch ‘smokin’ album released by supermarket Albert Heijn in 1970, why not they sell cigs, right)

    Fun post, much appreciated!

  5. Bobby Timmons – This Here Is Bobby Timmons
    Antonio Carlos Jobim – Stone Flower (ok, maybe not really a jazz album but what a cool cover)
    Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine – Prayer Meetin’
    Jimmy Smith – Home Cookin’ (very discreet cigarette but a bonus Coca Cola advertisement)
    Grant Green – Grant’s First Stand (cigarette not very prominent, would look cooler if the cigarette was squeezed on the neck of the guitar)

  6. For a more recent vintage, almost anything by Mal Waldron. In fact, anything: it’s harder to find a Mal Waldron cover on which he isn’t smoking than one on which he is. Indeed, I remember reading him saying in an interview that being able to smoke everywhere was one of the reasons he moved to Europe. And of course, he died from cancer.

  7. I found three more smoking hot albums in my collection:
    Thelonious Monk, Underground
    Clark Terry Quartet with Thelonius Monk (Jazzland JLP996, reissue).
    Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool (T1974, reissue).

  8. Here are three more off the top of my head:
    Monk on Columbia CL 2291 — classic black-and-white close-up
    Frank Sinatra – Where Are You? On Capitol W855
    Horace Silver – Song for My Father on Blue Note 4185 Horace’s dad working over a stogie.

  9. Most of my favorites are already posted but…..
    Billy Mitchell – This Is Billy Mitchell
    Charles Mingus – Mingus At The Bohemia
    Zoot Sims in Hollywood-PRLP 202
    And a Record I sought out only for the cover…
    King Pleasure-King Pleasure Sings-PRLP 208

  10. I gotta add Miles Davis’ Milestones album. The cigarette held between his middle and ring finger expresses his singular cool in an unforgettable way.

  11. Bill Evans “Sunday at The Village Vanguard”. Many people don’t spot the cigarette in Bill’s left hand. And what about “Coltrane Time”, is that a cheroot or a cigarillo?

  12. Sonny Stitt – Satan – he looks like a seriously bad MF on that cover!
    Dexter Gordon – Our Man in Paris – note that the letter type is placed around the cigarette
    Stan Getz – Interpretations #2
    Sweets Edison – Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You
    Horace Silver – Song For My Father – what a gent!
    James Moody – Cookin’ The Blues
    Joe Henderson – Mode For Joe
    An Evening With Oscar Peterson
    Red Rodney – 1957 (on Signal)
    Miles – Workin’
    And finally, the most “smoking is sophisticated in the 1960s!” jazz cover ever is Johnny Hartman – I Just Dropped By To Say Hello (on Impulse).

  13. MIngus at the Bohemia; Coleman Hawkins “wrapped tight” and specialy Elvin Jones and Richard Davis “Heavy sounds”

  14. Walter Davis, Speak Low
    George Wallington Showcase (BLP 5045)
    Mobley, No Room for Squares
    Mobley, Workout
    John Patton, The Way I Feel
    Donald Byrd, Off to the Races
    Thelonious Monk Quintet (PRLP 180)

  15. I would submit 1544 Hank Mobley and his All Stars. Great shot of Hank with a cig looking at some sheet music. Also,
    4080, Mobley’s Workout. Sunglasses, a lit cig, a pack of cigs and a beer bottle.

    For iconic covers, 1501 and 1502 with Miles playing with a lit cig in his other hand. That’s one of the best pics in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s