Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960) – Newport Jazz Festival 1958
Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960) is a documentary film set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, and filmed and directed by noted commercial and fashion photographer Bert Stern.The film mixes images of water and the city with the performers and audience at the festival. It also features scenes of the 1958 America’s Cup yacht races. The film is largely without dialog or narration (except for periodic announcements by emcee Willis Conover).
From a New York Times review by Bosley Crowther, published 29 March 1960:
AS generous a dish of top jazz music as any cat could take in one gulp is beautifully ladled off the sound track of “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” a color film about the Newport Jazz Festival that opened at the Fifth Avenue Cinema and the Fifty-fifth Street Playhouse yesterday. While the music is pouring, in a variety of rhythms and styles, the screen is presenting a picture album of views of Newport, R. I., at festival time.
Possibly “documentary” is not precisely the word to suggest the characteristic of this eighty-five-minute film, which really lacks the form and comprehension that would justify that tag. Better to call it an “impression”—a compilation of shots and scenes—to convey an atmosphere of leisure and enjoyment while jazz is being played.
As the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Thelonious Monk and Henry Grimes, Sonny Stitt and Sal Salvadore and a succession of combos and stars follow one another under the canopy of the Newport Festival, thumping or blasting out music that soothes or abrades the nerves, the cameras of Bert Stern and his assistants are picking up colorful views of everything from the America’s Cup races (which were sailed off Newport in 1958) to “gone” jazz fanatics guzzling beer.
The photography is terrific. Mr. Stern and his lens-clicking crew have a bulging assembly of color pictures that should make any camera addict simply drool. There are wonderful shots of young jazz combos riding around Newport in veteran cars, parties on yachts, couples necking, fat guys in Bermuda shorts. The assortment of candid views is endless and embraces what must be the range of the mass descent upon Newport when the summer festival is there.
Likewise, the views of the musicians are superior in the photographic sense, catching them brilliantly in close-ups and in significant compositions while they are dreamily and frenziedly at work. Anita O’Day, making mincemeat of “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Tea for Two,” is as vivid and insinuating as is Mahalia Jackson booming “The Lord’s Prayer.” The George Shearing Quintet, wafting ripples of “Rondo” excitement into the night, is as great, in its way, as are Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden dueting on “Rocking Chair.” [read more]
- Jimmy Giuffre 3: Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim Hall
- Thelonious Monk Trio: Thelonious Monk, Henry Grimes, Roy Haynes
- Sonny Stitt and Sal Salvador
- Anita O’Day
- George Shearing
- Dinah Washington
- Gerry Mulligan Quartet: Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer
- Big Maybelle
- Chuck Berry
- Chico Hamilton Quintet
- Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars: Trummy Young, Danny Barcelona
- Armstrong & Jack Teagarden
- Mahalia Jackson
Anita O’Day: “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Tea for Two”