Jazz Trading Cards by Ron Bucalo

Short interview with illustrator Ron Bucalo about his American Music Pioneers series of illustrated trading cards.

1.  Can you tell me briefly about your background as an artist?

I am a New York-based illustrator who’s work has appeared in a wide array of regional and national publications, with a focus on music and entertainment, advertising, and corporate concept work.

  1. How/when did you become a jazz and blues fan? When did the two areas come together?

You start out with rock’n’roll, and a little bit of the blues seeps in because you want to find out who did the originals for the rock covers, and it evolves from there.  Then somewhere along the line, you hear the music of artists like Thelonious Monk, and suddenly there’s a whole new musical universe opening up.  Along the way, I played the blues harmonica for many years, while drawing caricatures of rock legends for a number of leading music publications.

  1. The Marsbeat company project is interesting; how would you summarize what you are trying to do there?

Essentially, the artists we are celebrating through this series, from Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis to Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock, are some of the greatest legends of American jazz, and ambassadors of this classic musical genre around the world.  The trading card series is a fun, accessible format designed to inspire interest and excitement around this incredible musical heritage, with the goal of educating new audiences and keeping the music alive for generations to come.

  1. Tell us briefly about the Jazz cards (and coming Blues ones); whose idea was this?How did you prepare to do such intimate portraits of all these great artists and was it a very long process?

The jazz cards are the first series of the American Music Pioneers project.  Each set features 35 hand-drawn portraits, accompanied by a brief, informative bio and packaged in an attractive flip-top box.

The process involved a number of components.  First, there was a period of extensive research, to identify the artists I wanted to include.  Each musician was first drawn, and then scanned in to be digitally colored.  The bios were researched and written by Susanna Miller, who has written widely on jazz and the arts.  Finally, the cards were designed by my brother, Glenn, with whom I formed Marsbeat Studios.         

  1. What’s next for you?And where can people order these sets?

The next series, focusing on greats of the American blues, is now complete but hasn’t gone to press yet.  To order the jazz series, go to:  www.americanmusicpioneers.com.

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Mr. OK Jazz is a 18+ year resident of Japan and spends all his free time wandering the Kanto area looking for jazz cafes, bars, clubs and record stores. For two years he hosted the OK Jazz radio show on InterFM Radio, currently the OK Jazz podcast. You can reach him at mrokjazz@tokyojazzsite.com
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