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   On Internet since 1999

The Birka Jazz Archive
Records we have bought and sold over the years - the rare and the beautiful!

Please note!
Birka Jazz record store is closed but Birka Jazz Archive is still available. Scroll down and use the links to browse this comprehensive archive of rare jazz album covers


The pioneers of album cover design

David Stone Martin

The photographic covers

Searching for a modern jazz identity

BLUE NOTE  1500 series
Defining the hard bop style

BLUE NOTE  4000 series
Masterpieces of Reid Miles

Images of East Coast jazz

Street cred with Thelonious Monk

Moods of Chet and Claxton

Cool West Coast, great Sound

Masterworks by Charlie Parker

Small label, big Bird sound

Bold and striking albums

The classic drummer logo label

The beautiful design of Burt Goldblatt

Artist-operated jazz label with Mingus & Roach

Legendary, early 1960s LPs

Free jazz and silk screened covers

Edgy and experimental

The high spirit of Jim Flora

VARIOUS US labels (1)
ABC-Paramount, Aladdin, Argo, Capitol, Coral, Dawn, Decca,
and more

VARIOUS US labels (2)
Epic, Fantasy, HiFi, Imperial, Jazzland, Jazz West, Jubilee, Mercury, Mode, and more

VARIOUS US labels (3)
Roost, Signal, Storyville, Tampa, Transition, United Artists, Vee Jay, and more


The EP era and Metronome Records in 1950s

The LPs in the 1950s, and Swedish jazz abroad

Changing times in the 1960s

New energy to Swedish jazz in the 1970s

Montmartre, Debut Records and the heydays in Danish jazz

Krog and Garbarek, greats in Norwegian jazz

Plenty of merged styles in Finnish jazz

Americans in Paris, force in French jazz

Esquire and Tempo, classic labels in British jazz

Jazz labels with strong identity

Rare Italian jazz covers

From Diamonds to ICP in
Dutch jazz

Unique series of Polish jazz on Muza

Jazz labels around the world


Contemporary Records

Great sound
cool West Coast jazz covers

CONTEMPORARY was the leading label in Los Angeles in the fifties, besides Pacific Jazz. The two labels ruled the independent jazz roost on the West Coast in the same way that Blue Note and Prestige were the pace-setter on the East Coast.

Contemporary was founded 1951 by Lester Koenig. Two years earlier he had started Good Time Jazz, a label devoted to traditionell jazz. And Contemporary was ment to be a label for contemporary classical music. But in 1953 Koenig ventured into modern jazz.

Since he had taste and concern for quality, Contemporary soon set standards with its superb audio and quiet pressings. In 1956, they also was among the first to record jazz in stereo. In the beginning they used a special label for the stereo versions of their recordings, called just Stereo Records.


The sound genius of
Roy DuNann

The genius behind the pure natural Contempory sound was Roy DuNann. As sound engineer he created some of the best-sounding recordings of all time, using a minimal but high-quality equipment in a "studio" which in reality was the tiny shipping room in the back of Koenig´s little office at Melrose Place in Los Angeles.

Look at the back cover photos on "Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section", one of the label´s great LPs from the 1950s. You can see the shipping room with records stacked on shelves all around the musicans. Listen to the sound, and perhaps you will find that you suddenly are in that room with Art Pepper and the rhythm section!

 Art Pepper in the shipping room

   ... and Sonny Rollins

Contemporary was recognizable also by their fresh and bright cover graphics and informative liner notes. Robert Guidi and his studio Tri-Arts designed many of the covers, and the most hired photographer was William Claxton.

The label issued about 20 LPs in the 10" format into 1955 and then about 100 LPs in 12" format in the second half of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The recording activity faded out in the 1960s and besides many reissues only about 20 LP were produced during the decade. About the same number of LPs were produced in the 1970s.

Lester Koenig died in 1977 and the label was sold to Fantasy in 1984.


Contemporary Discography

The Search for Roy DuNann

 Coop! The Music of Bob Cooper   Label: Contemporary 3544   12" LP 1957
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Peter James Samerjan


 Howard Rumsey: Sunday Jazz a la Lighthouse   Label: Contemporary C2501  
10" LP 1953    The First jazz LP from Contemporary Records

 Shelly Manne and His Men   Label: Contemporary C2503   10" LP 1953
 Photo: William Claxton

 Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars   Label: Contemporary C2506   10" LP 1953

 Mary Lou Williams   Label: Contemporary C2507   10" LP 1953
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Barney Kessel   Label: Contemporary C2508   10" LP 1953
 Design and photo: William Claxton

 Shelly Manne, vol. 2   Label: Contemporary C2511   10" LP 1954
 Design: Catharine Heerman

 Lennie Niehaus vol 1 The Quintet   Label: Contemporary C2513   10" LP 1954
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: William Claxton

 Shelly Manne: The Three   Label: Contemporary C2516   10" LP 1954
 Design: Catharine Heerman   Illustration: Irene Trivas

 Claire Austin sings the Blues   Label: Good Time Jazz L-24   10" LP 1954

 Claire Austin: When your lover has gone   Label: Contemporary C-5002   12" LP 1956
 Compared to the singer's first album (above), this second album is different as night and day; musically, and not least how it looks...

 Howard Rumsey: Sunday Jazz a la Lighthouse, vol 1   Label: Contemporary 3501  
12" LP 1954   Cover Art: Rodney Evans Bacon

 Howard Rumsey: Sunday Jazz a la Lighthouse, vol 1   Label: Contemporary 3501  
Alternate cover   Photo: R.D. Hall

 Shelly Manne & Russ Freeman   Label: Contemporary C2518   10" LP 1955
 Design: Catharine Heerman

 Dizzy Gillespie: Dizzy in Paris   Label: Contemporary C4011   7" EP 1955
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Lennie Niehaus Octet   Label: Contemporary C3503   12" LP 1955
 Design: Catharine Heerman

 Hampton Hawes Trio   Label: Contemporary 3505   12" LP 1955
 Design: Pauline Annon   Photo: Alex de Paula

 Howard Rumsey: Lighthouse Laguna   Label: Contemporary 3509   12" LP 1955
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Hampton Hawes Trio, vol 2   Label: Contemporary 3515   12" LP 1956
 Photo: William Claxton

 Howard Rumsey: In The Solo Spotlight   Label: Contemporary 3517   12" LP 1956

 More Swinging Sounds   Label: Contemporary 3519   12" LP 1956
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Howard Rumsey: Oboe/Flute   Label: Contemporary 3520   12" LP 1956
 Design and photo: William Claxton

 Everybody likes Hampton Hawes   Label: Contemporary 3523   12" LP 1956
 Design and illustration: Robert Guidi

 Lennie Niehaus Sextet   Label: Contemporary 3524   12" LP 1956
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section   Label: Stereo Records 7018   12" LP 1957
 Photo: William Claxton

 Howard Rumsey: Music for Lighthousekeeping   Label: Contemporary 3528   12" LP 1957

 Sonny Rollins: Way Out West   Label: Contemporary 3530   12" LP 1957
 Photo: William Claxton

 Presenting Red Mitchell   Label: Contemporary 3538   12" LP 1957
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Hal Adams

 You get more bounce with Curtis Counce   Label: Contemporary 3539   12" LP 1957
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Hal Adams

 Lennie Niehaus: Zounds!   Label: Contemporary 3540   12" LP 1957
 Photo: William Claxton

 Victor Feldman: Suite Sixteen   Label: Contemporary 3541   12" LP 1958


 Leroy Vinnegar: Leroy Walks!   Label: Contemporary 3542   12" LP 1957
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Peter James Samerjan

 The Arrival of Victor Feldman   Label: Contemporary 3549   12" LP 1958
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Stan Levey

 Harold Land: In the Land of Jazz   Label: Contemporary 3550   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Walter Zerlinden

 Shelly Manne: The Gambit   Label: Contemporary 3557   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Ray Avery

 Cecil Taylor: Looking Ahead   Label: Contemporary 3562   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Dennis Stock

 Sony Rollins and The Contemporary Leaders   Label: Contemporary 3564   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: William Claxton

 Barney Kessel: Somebody Like It Hot   Label: Contemporary 3565   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi

 Art Pepper plus Eleven   Label: Contemporary 3568   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Roger Marshutz

 O. Coleman: Tomorrow is the Question   Label: Contemporary 3569   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Roger Marshutz

 Ornette Coleman: Something Else   Label: Contemporary 3571   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Walter Zurlinden

 Art Pepper: Gettin´ Together   Label: Contemporary 3573   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Roger Marshultz

 Hampton Hawes: Four!   Label: Stereo Records 7026   12" LP 1959
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Richard Gross

 Portrait of Art Farmer   Label: Stereo Records 7027   12" LP 1959
 Photo: William Claxton

 Curtis Counce: Carl´s Blues   Label: Contemporary 3574   12" LP 1960
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Cecil Charles

 Shelly Manne at the Black Hawk   Label: Contemporary 3577   12" LP 1960
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: Fred Lyon

 Teddy Edwards: Teddy´s ready!   Label: Contemporary 3583   12" LP 1960
 Design: Robert Guidi   Photo: William Claxton

 T.Edwards - H. McGhee: Together Again!   Label: Contemporary 3588   12" LP 1961
 Photo: Roger Marshutz

 Hampton Hawes: For Real   Label: Contemporary S7589   12" LP 1961
 Design: George Kershaw   Photo: Stan Levey

 Teddy Edwards: Good Gravy!   Label: Contemporary 3592   12" LP 1962
 Painting: George Bartell

 Howard McGhee: Maggie´s Back In Town!   Label: Contemporary 3596   12" LP 1961
 Photo: William Claxton

 Art Pepper: Smack Up   Label: Contemporary 3602   12" LP 1961
 Design: George Kershaw   Photo: William Claxton

 Leroy Vinnergar: Leroy Walks Again!   Label: Contemporary 3608   12" LP 1962
 Design: George Kershaw   Photo: Roger Marshutz

 Prince Lasha - Sonny Simmons: Firebirds   Label: Contemporary 3617 (S7617)   12" LP 1968
 Design: George Kershaw   Photo: Ed Michel