Stephen posted one of James Flora's album covers yesterday and just left a few words about him in a comment. I thought I'd build on this a bit, because I've long been an admirer of this man's work.
The former Art Director for Columbia records (and later in the 1950s an author and illustrator of Children's books), James Flora brought a decidedly Modernist snap . . . without Modernism's dolorous weight . . . to his cover designs for Columbia's Jazz releases beginning in the 1940s (later for those of RCA-Victor). Album covers had heretofore been a perfunctory affair, with little thought lavished on the matter beyond how best it might get the product out the door. Flora may not have been the first cover designer whose work had merits beyond market performance but, as a Jazz afficionado himself, he seemed to be the first who determined to express something vital about the music in his cover art.
Here are three examples:
Gene Krupa and His Orchestra (1947)
This is Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (1951)
(Shorty Rogers and Andre Previn; 1956)