Home > Art, Sculpture & Photography, History, Music, Things I Like... > William Gottlieb’s 1940’s New York Jazz photos..

William Gottlieb’s 1940’s New York Jazz photos..

I’ll start with an admission… I’m not a fan of  the large majority of Jazz.

In fact there are certain things that I really can’t stand about it…. it’s noodliness, the insistence of playing on the off beat, the way every member of the band has to have a solo, the disjointed and fractured song structures, the almost wilful disregard for any recognisable rhythm…. I could go on (and often do, ask anyone who knows me)

But there are some aspects that I can most definitely appreciate about jazz;  the passion (bordering on obsession in many cases) the wonderful style and panache of the musicians (especially from this period, the 1930’s and 40’s) and the sense that the artists were doing it because they just had to..  it was in their blood.

So when I came across this set of photos on Flickr recently, I was captivated by them. Taken by the American, William Gottlieb, the images document the jazz scene in New York City from 1938 to 1948, a time recognized by many as the “Golden Age of Jazz”.

Gottlieb was both a music journalist and a self-taught photographer who spent his life capturing the jazz greats, almost always in black and white. Upon his death in 2006, Gottlieb bequeathed his entire collection (over 1600 images) to the public domain, which is where I found them on a Flickr site here… There are many famous names in the collection: Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington to name a few.

The images I’ve chosen for this post are just some of the ones that appealed to me. I particularly like the fact that almost every single person in the photos is smiling…. New York must have been an amazing place during this time…

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