Showing posts with label RCA Victor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RCA Victor. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The High Fidelity Exhibition

You can buy our fourth anthology The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora and browse the man's legendary album illustrations between book covers. Or you can attend Jalopy's similarly named exhibit and be surrounded by four walls of Flora. Those walls will be adorned with vintage LP and 78 covers, proof sheets, and oversized reproductions from our fine art print catalog. The Brooklyn-based club's exhibit opens Friday June 13 from 6 - 8pm, during which yours truly will be on hand to: 1) sign your copy of The High Fidelity Art; 2) spin Flora-centric music (trad jazz, swing, and hard bop, with a smattering of Third Stream); and 3) chat about Flora. Admission is FREE, and you don't have to buy a book to attend. Jalopy has a restaurant next door to the club, and the fare is scrumptious.

Jalopy is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn (315 Columbia Street, specifically). It's not that hard to get to, though locals have a saying, "It takes people in Red Hook two hours to get to Red Hook." You can find it. It's a very cool place to hang, and it's run by a cool couple, Lynette and Geoff Wiley, who recently gave birth to a couple of cool twins.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hipsters, Flipsters ...

Richard Myrle Buckley was born 108 years ago today in Tuolumne, CA. He later self-applied the deferential appellation Lord and became a fixture on the New York jazz nightclub scene, transforming into what his biographer Michael Monteleone described as "a strange but intriguing mix of a proper English peer of the realm and a street corner jive hipster." He played the Vaudeville circuit, was friends with gangster Al Capone, appeared on The Tonight Show, married six times, and died broke, leaving an idiosyncratic legacy of oral literature, some of it captured on tape, vinyl, and film.

You can hear one of his Lordship's epic declarations here. It's the title track from the very rare 1955 10" record (above) with a famous Flora illustration. The cover is available as a limited edition fine art print at Or you can order a Buckley portrait rendered by noted illustrator Drew Friedman. The Friedman portrait looks like Buckley. The Flora portrait looks like ... well, like Flora.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Miraculous Mambo Returns!

In 2012 we sold our 200th and final oversized Mambo For Cats screen print, the last of a limited edition produced by Aesthetic Apparatus of Minneapolis in 2006. Almost immediately, a legion of Floraphiles—especially those fond of felines and Latin terpsichore—began clamoring for this work to be restored to our catalog. The nature of limited editions precludes us from issuing the work in an identical (or even comparable) format. Two hundred hand-numbered, Flora family-authenticated, 20"-square Mambo screen prints (and two dozen proofs) exist. There won't be any more. Want one? You'll have to search on the secondary market—which means find someone who bought one and wants to sell it. We don't control that market, and price is determined by supply and demand.

But we do control the underlying image, and limited edition print protocols permit us to issue the work in an altered format. Consider it done. To celebrate the publication of The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora, our fourth anthology—and one which specifically features all of Flora's known album covers—we've revived Mambo for Cats. This week we're launching an edition of 200 hand-numbered, 11-1/2"-square, archival-quality fine art prints. It's about 40% smaller than the screen print, and is produced on different paper with different inks via an entirely different printing process (inkjet, or giclée). The giclée image is slightly smaller than a 12" LP cover in order to accommodate a 3/4" margin on an untrimmed 13" x 19" sheet of 310g Hahnemühle stock. (A smaller margin would make matting problematic.) One other significant difference: the screen print was on cream-colored stock; the giclée stock is white.

Upon learning about the new Mambo edition, ears began to perk up in the Flora community:

We also offer a Mambo mini—a 7"-square archival quality print. This is an open edition, meaning the prints are not numbered nor is the edition limited. To date we've sold about 150 minis.

We can't guarantee these Mambo kitties will have nine lives, but for now they're happy to embark on their third.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora

Our fourth Jim Flora anthology is officially available today.

Our first book, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (2004), featured Flora's known album covers. Since that book's publication, more vintage covers have been found, as well as the artist's rough drafts and rejected illustrations. The Mischievous Art went through two editions, but is now out of print, highly sought and available only at high prices through rare-book sellers. So we decided to compile a complete collection of Flora record covers (including recent discoveries) and unpublished sketches in one volume, augmented by music images not included in previous volumes. The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora is the definitive anthology of the maestro's visual compositions, reflecting jazz, classical, and Latin music. Regarding his jam-packed canvases Flora once said he "couldn't stand a static space." There's nothing static about the images in The High Fidelity Art: they wail, dance, bounce, and swing from the chandeliers. They hit notes that shatter glass. This is art to which you can tap your toes and snap your fingers. Flora had a knack for grooving with a paintbrush.

The book features a 1998 interview with Flora which I conducted at his home on Bell Island, in Rowayton CT, just a few months before he passed away from stomach cancer. The interview has not been previously published. We also obtained from the Flora family previously unpublished photos of Jim and rare visual artifacts.

The book is published by Fantagraphics, who have created a spate of High Fidelity Art links for your web perusal:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Get in line ...

... a Cugat conga line, to pre-order the new Flora anthology, The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora. It features all of Flora's known album and EP covers (including back cover illustrations) from 1947 to 1961 for Columbia, RCA Victor, and their affiliated labels, along with music-themed fine art works, illustrations, and sketches. The book was completed last week and will head shortly to the printer. (Despite what it says at Amazon, the publication date will be sometime in August, not June 30. We dawdled a bit.)

As was the case with the previous three Flora anthologies, The High Fidelity Art was compiled and authored by Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon, designed by Laura Lindgren, and published by Fantagraphics.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Picasso of Jazz

Thanks to Clayton Walter for a nice little Flora gallery at his Claytonology blog:
"I think of Flora as the Picasso of Jazz; his other-worldly depictions of Jazz musicians capture perfectly the vibe of a certain era of the music—brash, swingin' and full of ecstatic movement. There's another side to Flora as well. If you look closely at his LP illustrations, beyond the exciting flash,  you see a cunning method to his cartoonish madness."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inside Sauter-Finegan (print)

Jim Flora Art has launched a new limited edition fine art print: INSIDE SAUTER-FINEGAN, a 1954 RCA Victor LP that features one of Flora's best-known cover illustrations. Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan were famous for their orchestral mayhem. While Flora's mischievous cover figures didn't physically resemble Eddie or Bill, his caricatures reflected their inventive approach to redefining big band jazz in the 1950s.

The print image is larger (15-1/2" square) than the 12" square LP. This archival-quality edition is limited to 25 hand-numbered prints. As with all our limited edition prints, prices will increase as the edition sells down. Nine have already been sold to Floraphiles (some of whom might be closet Sauter-Fineganians).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arts and the Man (part 1)

Detail from panoramic illustration for article "Arts and the Man," Park East magazine, May 1953. Flora served as the publication's art director in 1952, but moved on to full-time freelancing in January 1953. His successor in the Park East AD chair was his longtime colleague Robert M. Jones, who had also succeeded Flora as AD at Columbia Records in 1945. Jones jobbed out several Park East illustration assignments to Flora. The following year, Jones was named AD at RCA Victor Records, for whom he commissioned Flora to create some of the label's most iconic LP covers of the mid-decade.

Friday, July 9, 2010

typographical puzzler

The above typography appears on the covers of at least three RCA Victor LPs from 1956 and 1957, one by pianist Hal Schaefer, another by polymath-bandleader George Russell, and a third by saxophonist/clarinetist Hal McKusick. Of the series, Schaefer explained: "I was invited to participate in The RCA Victor Jazz Workshop. You had to be a composer, arranger and instrumentalist, all rolled into one." (Which abundantly explains Russell's inclusion.)

In each case, the album covers are photographic, the "Jazz Workshop" logo branded in a corner. There's no typographical credit, yet the intricate lettering appears to be the handiwork of Flora, who often toyed with typography and illustrated dozens of RCA Victor (front and back) covers between 1954 and 1961. The letter fills reflect Flora's painstaking mischief.

One Floraphile insists on the benefit of the doubt. That would be me. Until proven wrong, I remain insistent.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Redskin Romp (typography)

Hand-lettered typography from cover of Charlie Barnet's 1955 compilation Redskin Romp 7" EP (also released as a 12" LP). Barnet (1913-1991) was a Swing Era bandleader and saxophonist whose first 78 rpm hit, "Cherokee," released in 1939, inspired the Indian-themed title of this 33-1/3 rpm hi-fi retrospective. Above is a section of the full cover; that's a non-lookalike caricature of Barnet in the lower left.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jolly birthday

Peter Ceragioli Jr. was born this day in 1932. You may not recognize this West Coast jazz pianist, accordionist, and composer by his birth name. Beyond TV and film soundtrack cognoscenti, he's probably obscure even by his stage name—Pete Jolly. The keyboardist was a child prodigy on accordion, as points out:
When he was eight, he made his first broadcast appearance, billed as "The Boy Wonder Accordionist" on CBS Radio's Hobby Lobby. The show's emcee messed up his name, announcing him as "Pete Jolly," but the boy liked the sound of it and used it ever after.
Though his name is little recognized today, Jolly had a long, distinguished recording, composing and performing career. To Floraphiles, however, he is a household name, having been idiosyncratically rendered by the artist twice (in duo and trio releases) on 1955 RCA Victor 7" EP covers. In each case, Flora's caricature in no way resembled a recognizable human being. But then, Flora always insisted he "couldn't do likenesses." Original copies of both covers are extremely rare and highly sought by Flora collectors.

We issued a screen print of the Pete Jolly Duo cover in 2007.

I spoke to Jolly briefly before he passed away in 2004. I was soliciting quotes for our first volume of Floriana, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora, the anthology that contained most of the artist's album cover illustrations. Having tracked down Jolly thru the L.A. musician's union, I gave him a call. He had no recollection of either EP cover and claimed never to have heard the name Jim Flora. Though Jolly was a gentleman to chat with, I came away from the conversation without a quote.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

more anatomical spare parts

Detail from the Lord Buckley 10" EP Hipsters, Flipsters, and Finger-Poppin' Daddies, Knock Me Your Lobes, released on RCA Victor in 1955. Left to right: sports-fan centaur, polycephalic saxophonist, jubilant wench. Body count: three figures, eight legs, four heads.

We issued a (very) limited edition print (10) of this iconic Flora cover in 2007. Copies of the original cover fetch beaucoups bucks on Ebay.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Meow! Introducing the Mambo Mini

Our large (20" x 20") Mambo For Cats limited edition screen print is almost sold out. We're now offering a miniature (7" x 7") giclée open edition print of this renowned Flora 1955 RCA Victor LP cover. At $25.00, it's a great alternative for those on a limited budget—or with limited wall space.

Friday, April 24, 2009

a bird in the hand

Detail, Inside Sauter-Finegan RCA Victor LP cover, 1954. I bought this record at a yard sale in 1974 just for the sleeve illustration, which graced my living room wall. Never got around to dropping the needle on the vinyl. But you can listen to (and watch) Bill (Finegan) and Eddie (Sauter) on YouTube.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

tabletop tabby

In the full image, he's actually perched on a piano. This cover kitty appears on the 1955 RCA Victor LP Collaboration, by Shorty Rogers and Andre Previn. Felines slink, scurry, and snooze in countless Flora works—he gave them frequent supporting roles in drawings, paintings, and commercial illustrations. Flora was a friend of the furries. Doggies too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the evolution of Eulenspiegel

Pencil sketches for Till Eulenspiegel LP cover, 1955. The above skeletal figures eventually morphed into this rough layout:

... which was refined as this unfinished tempera setting:

... which evolved into this finished RCA Victor Red Seal cover:

Till Eulenspiegel was an impudent prankster in German folklore. Flora rendered several pen and ink drawings of the trickster in the 1990s. Perhaps he recognized a kindred spirit.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Daisy Holiday

Our friend Takashi Okada of Tokyo has become the pre-eminent Floraphile in Japan. Besides being an avid customer of Jim Flora fine art prints, Takashi recently designed the Daisy Holiday CD package, which adapts Flora's 1947 Green Mansions resort brochure illustration (licensed from the Flora estate). Additional Flora elements appear on the jewel case inlay and in the booklet.

Here's a Tokyo record store display flush with Flora. If you don't live in that part of the world, the CD is available from Amazon, cdUniverse, and YesAsia. When this display is taken down, someone is gonna have a rare Flora Daisy Holiday poster.

Takashi is also publishing a compendium of over 150 feline images from record album covers. The book's front will be adorned with Flora's classic 1955 Mambo For Cats RCA Victor LP illustration, and the back will feature a piano-perched kitty from the Shorty Rogers-Andre Previn Collaboration EP. We'll provide more info about the book upon publication.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finegan's wake

When composer-arranger Bill Finegan passed away last week at the age of 91, a New York Times writer (on the recommendation of a mutual friend and Flora admirer) contacted me for some background on the music legend. I confessed that, in all honesty, I knew less about what Finegan did for Glenn Miller, Nelson Riddle, and Tommy Dorsey than I do about what Jim Flora did for Bill Finegan.

Flora gave Finegan two right arms, dressed him in weird toreador togs, and made him swallow a saxophone:

The above RCA Victor sleeve appeared in 1954. Flora admitted that as a caricaturist he "could not do likenesses" — a failing that worked to his artistic advantage. He dealt another mutant makeover the following year on The Sons of Sauter-Finegan (RCA 1104, detail):

This time the arms issue has been resolved (and the duo's intestinal contents are concealed). Flora illustrated two other S-F LPs: Concert Jazz (RCA 1051) and Inside Sauter-Finegan Revisited (RCA 2473).

The Inside S-F cover illustration is available on a T-shirt. The Sons of S-F illustration was adapted for the cover of The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora. Death does not stop the merch march.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Incredible Flutist

UPDATE 4/25: Two prints sold. Now available via

The Incredible Flutist
is an uncirculated 1953-54 record cover illustration by Flora that was intended for a 7-inch RCA Victor EP. Jim Flora Art LLC is offering two fine art prints on eBay at a launch price.

According to a purchase order discovered in the Flora archives, the illustration was commissioned by RCA in late 1953, but there's no indication the work was finished, accepted, or used on a commercially released EP. This illustration has not previously been published or offered in any form. An alternate version appeared in The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora.

Only 20 numbered prints of this illustration have been produced. After the two launch prints are sold, prices will increase on edition prints sold at

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lord Buckley fine art print

Edition of ten, one of which is now being offered on eBay. After this print sells at the fixed price, the price will increase for the remainder of the edition, which will be offered thru