Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The gents of jazz, in classic photos

William Gottlieb made these portraits of jazz legends in the late '40s; we think they capture the essence of these great musicians. They and many others (including yesterday's images of female jazz singers) are viewable online at the Library of Congress. And follow our links for some outstanding music!
Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, spinning notes into the stratosphere
Dizzy Gillespie. What a joyful person!
Gillespie stylin' on 52nd Street
The ever-ebullient Count Basie
Billy Eckstine with conductor/arranger Nelson Riddle
Cab Calloway, recording at Columbia Studios
Duke Ellington, with mystery woman
Lester Young (a.k.a. Prez); so much heart and soul
Mel Torme (note the compliance with the "No Smoking" sign!)
Thelonious Monk; a unique genius
Nat Cole contemplates the man in the mirror
Bird blows while Miles Davis digs it the most
Sinatra's sense of time, swing, and phrasing all drew on jazz
Hello Louis!
Monk and Howard McGhee, Minton's Playhouse
The Nat Cole Trio at work (Oscar Moore, Nat "King" Cole, and Wesley Prince)
Caption from Down Beat: "Here is a little story in pictures taken by staffer Bill Gottlieb, who likes to be there when it happens. Although you can probably follow the near-tragedy without our subtitles, here goes. Characters--Jerry Wald, Gordon MacRae, Mel Torme, Marion Hutton and Jerry Jerome, in left to right order in the first photo. Scene: rehearsal of the Saturday Teentimers Show, on which only MacRae and Jerome are regulars. Plot: Wald, sharp as a tuning fork, hears something amiss in the harmonizing of MacRae, Torme and Hutton. An on-the-spot investigation, with all parties looking baffled, hurt and accusingly at each other. The culprit found and the problem resolved, all beam brightly as they continue in perfect harmony."


  1. I just want to hang out with Dizzy Gillespie. He seems like a fun guy. Also, Thelonious Monk was one attractive guy. I love these pictures, and the ones from yesterday!

    1. I second that emotion. Diz was a wonderful mentor to other musicians, including the late James Moody (also a dreamboat).

  2. I love flannel as much as the next...but life was better when musicians wore suits. They all look so cool. The same reason I watch Mad Men...even though it's super boring...suits are great.

    Would iron & wine be as great if Sam Beam wore suits to all of his shows? Maybe. Thelonius Monk does look super cool. Although not in the picture with the hat. Frank Sinatra also looks pretty rad. Great photo. He looks kind of mean though, was he mean?

    1. I think you have to have a certain amount of swagger to get away with wearing suits all the time... Jazz musicians just have more than other types of musicians. That might be a scientific fact actually. Let me consult my charts.

    2. What do Nat Cole (mirror pic) and David Byrne have in common?

      A big suit.

    3. True. That is scientifically accurate. Easier to prove than the sun going Red Dwarf in 3 billion years. Were they cool back then? Or are we projecting coolness on them anachronistically? I think they were always cool. Miles Davis gave birth to the cool...after all...

      MARRY ME!

    4. The suits are nice, but I'm not sure about Sinatra's untied tie tucked into the pants look...

    5. Oh they were definitely always cool. As a generation, we're pretty UNcool, therefore incapable of using up valuable cool points from our extremely low supply to project onto anyone else, past or present..

      Hambone, were you proposing marriage to me or Miles Davis...? Because I'm already spoken for. By a man in a suit.

      (And even with his tucked-in tie, Sinatra is still way cooler than any of us.)

    6. I sure second that emotion, Maeby. And cool is not a suit, but knowing how to do what you do better than anyone else.
      So for those of you who are UNcool, there's always hope.
      Even for Hambone.

    7. Funny, I think Sinatra looks appealingly pensive ... but he could be mean as snakes, no doubt!

    8. To those who think Sinatra's personality outweighed his talents, I would ask that they listen to Kiri Te Kanawa"s version of "Angel Eyes" and then Sinatra's. Kiri has a lovely voice, but Sinatra lived the role. He felt the bafflement and betrayal; he suggested a bottled-up rage that could turn violent. Maybe 90% of a singer's appeal is acting--but Sinatra had the whole package.

    9. Funny you should mention Te Kanawa. My father--from whose Ella records I was introduced to paradise--always uses her recording of "Why don't you do right" (with Ray Brown and Andre Previn I think) as an example of why most classical singers should stay the heck away from jazz. So painful! and hilarious! It is so leaden.
      If there's anything Sinatra was devoted to, it was the art of singing popular song, and few can equal him in that. I agree, he had it all. What was that song he sang after the breakup w/ Ava Gardner? So devastating.

    10. Your father sounds like quite a guy!
      I started listening to Big Band music as a bored child with a radio and a strong dislike of rock.
      That is funny about Kiri Te Kanawa...too bad Placido Domingo, whom I adore in Tosca, didn't heed the lesson before recording "Autumn Leaves". It is a howl, literally.

    11. oh, got it now. "I'm a Fool to Want You" had lyrics written by Sinatra, during his stormy relationship with Gardner. They say he tried to kill himself after they broke up? Anyway, they also say she never married again.
      Can't live with you, can't live without...

  3. Is that Mary Lou Williams with the Duke? I love a mystery.
    The suits are a great improvement over what the hiphop guys wear nowadays. Everyone looks so young in these photos! Was Sinatra mean? If you didn't make him mad...:>)

    1. No, I'm pretty sure that's Kay Davis.

    2. You are so right! A quick google search produced her obituary in the NY Times, with the same photo!

  4. I love the pictures, I must say that the photo's of Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, there is almost a modern quality in their style and fashion almost as if the photos were taken yesterday, not over 50 years ago.

  5. The photo of Monk and Howard Mcghee look pretty cool. They look like they mean business!