On any given Friday in Manhattan, Raymond and I could be found at Central Plaza. Located in a fifth-floor dance hall in the city’s East Village, “The Plaza” was a haven for jazz music in a decade permeated by rock and roll. The venue was open Friday and Saturday evenings and featured two traditional jazz bands each night along with a crowded dance floor and $2.50 pitchers of beer. The club’s promoter was Jack Crystal, a jazz producer, former record store owner, and father of actor Billy Crystal. The audience was usually young, but the musicians were always top-notch. Regular performers included Freddy Moore, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Conrad Janis, a trombonist and popular television actor. Even Louis Armstrong is said to have played there.
For Raymond, jazz was as much about the musicians as it was about their music, with no better example than the famous trumpeter. His portrait series of Louis Armstrong contains more images of “Satchmo” in his Basin Street East dressing room than on stage. While Raymond also photographed the likes of Billie Holiday and Gene Krupa in performances at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, most of his jazz portraits were taken in the city’s more intimate venues. - Eleanor Jacobs