The brief time spent working with Pat Metheny stands out as a cherished point in the history of the studio. Together, we’ve debated the merits of Ralph J. Gleason’s liner notes for Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, discussed composer Harry Partch’s life as a hobo, and pored over Jaco Pastorius’ childhood cartoons of baseball players. So several months after designing the package for his group’s album Quartet, we embarked on one of his many exploratory projects.
Where Quartet appealed to a wide audience, topping Billboard magazine’s Jazz Chart for weeks, The Sign of 4 was a collaboration with guitarist Derek Bailey, a leading figure in free improvisational music, and the percussionists Gregg Bendian and Paul Wertico.
Titles for the album and its three sections came from The Sign of the Four, the second Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And the cryptic interior iconography was derived from the book’s description of the sign: “In the left-hand corner is a curious hieroglyphic like four crosses in a line with their arms touching. Beside it is written, in very rough and coarse characters, ‘The sign of the four’… Yet it is evidently a document of importance.”