Today we release the penultimate set of photographs from the William Gottlieb Collection to Flickr. This set includes classic portraits of jazz legends like Fats Navarro and Tadd Dameron, Ray Nance, and Buddy Rich. There are also striking images of lesser known figures, like a Kodachrome portrait of singer Dottie Reid. Her isolation in the frame – by composition and shallow depth of field – makes her look like she’s just walked off the set of some neo-noir film. Less downbeat but curiously destructive is this week’s featured portrait of R&B group The Ravens, pictured hurling several 78 rpm records over a railing toward some unidentified and perhaps watery grave. Ravens lead singer Jimmy Ricks was memorably described by critic Billy Vera as possessed of ”a voice that made Barry White sound like Tiny Tim.”
The location of The Ravens’ record-breaking portrait is not specified, and there are no landmarks to indicate whether it was shot in New York or Washington, Gottlieb’s primary stomping grounds in this era. But other images in this week’s set are quintessentially New York, like a series of 1947 photos of Art Hodes’ River Boat Jazz Band being carried down Broadway on a horse-drawn carriage. One frame in particular stands out, not as a portrait of the musicians, who are but a small part of this wide shot; but for the old movie theaters, advertising Joan Crawford in Possessed, Jane Wyman in Cheyenne, and a billboard promoting Howard Hughes’ production of Jane Russell in The Outlaw.
The Art Hodes bandwagon carries an announcement for a concert to be held at the Damon Runyan [sic] Cancer Fund Headquarters. Runyon, whose stories formed the basis of the stage and screen hit Guys and Dolls, died in 1946, the year before this picture was taken, and the colorful New York he wrote about was not long for this world either.