New look on the street

Michael Schwab is one of the leading graphic artists of our time, in part because of his award-winning logos and posters for Apple, the Golden Gate National Parks and many others. Now his work is coming to the neighborhood: He created the poster and street banners for the 2006 Fillmore Jazz Festival.

“I love San Francisco, I love jazz and I love posters,” Schwab says. “It all came together.”

Music fuels Schwab’s art. He especially likes jazz greats Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Chet Baker. As he stands in his studio in San Anselmo talking about his work, Louis Armstrong is singing “Stars Fell on Alabama” in the background.

The Fillmore poster depicts a bass player in profile — which is appropriate, since the bass lays the foundation for many jazz bands. But in fact, there is also a more personal element to his Fillmore image. Schwab is himself a musician — “a garage band guitarist,” he says, since his youth. He has long been interested in playing bass, and his wife gave him a stand-up bass as a 25th wedding anniversary gift shortly before he took on the Fillmore job. It stands in the corner of his studio, and it became the model for the Fillmore Jazz Festival poster.

“I took on this project because it gave me an excuse to do a portrait of a bass player,” he says. “Now I hope to become one.”

Schwab’s work is in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, SFMOMA and the Achenbach Foundation at the Legion of Honor.