The Claxton Covers

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Ever hear of William Claxton? Famous for his lovely, atmospheric black & white portraits of jazz musicians at work & play.  With instruments and women.  High contrast smoke rings.

The 1950s-’60s.  It was the era of fine photograpy LP covers.  Artists like Lee Freidlander, Robert Frank & Claxton had work showing up on LP covers of prestigious labels like Atlantic.  Blue Note had their house photographer and cool, bold graphic art.   Covers worthy of hanging in art galleries.

Not to be outdone, Modern also put out photo LP covers on some jazz releases.  And they all used William Claxton photographs.  How the hell did that happen?   By the ’90s Claxton’s photos were making him good $$ but maybe he was just another starving artist when Jules Bihari bought some images.  And we doubt Jules stole Claxton’s photos since Claxton is given credit several times, something the Biharis usually reserved for themselves.   As you can see, sister Florette gets credit as the art director but according to general manager James Takeda & Jules’ son Peter, Florette was no more a graphic artist than her brothers were song writers (Ling, Taub, etc.).

So how this came about is pure conjecture.  The folks we interviewed had no idea, and this includes Takeda and engineer Bill Lazerus, who both did Crown cover art of their own.  Bill did a lot of the later Crown cover photos including all the Lowell Fulsoms.

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