Jazz on a Summer's Day [Import]
Part concert documentary, part pop-cultural time capsule, Bert Stern's Jazz on a Summer's Day chronicles the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival with an approach as deceptively relaxed, even impulsive, as the music itself. Still photographer Stern sidesteps more formal documentary conventions such as narrative voiceovers to wander purposefully from festival stage to boarding-house jam sessions, taking in the parallel color and motion of the America's Cup preparations when he isn't capturing rich color footage of the performances and the celebratory mood of the concertgoers. In the process, he documents American jazz at a notably golden moment in its development--diverse, adventurous, and still broadly popular, this was jazz not yet under the shadow of rock and youth culture, played by an integrated artistic community a few short years away from social and political turmoil that would boil divisively to the surface during the '60s. To say Stern was rolling film in a jazz Camelot is overstatement, but only slightly so.
Stern's circular approach and wonderful eye achieve a breezy languor at the expense of more comprehensive coverage of the festival's bumper crop of strong jazz, blues, and gospel musicians. Perhaps inevitably, the camera lingers on Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, and George Shearing. Avid fans of later styles may be frustrated by the fleeting glimpses of other musicians such as Eric Dolphy and Art Farmer, or the honor roll of classic jazz stylists whose Newport sets weren't included in the film, but such omissions seem forgivable, if not necessary, to Stern's serendipitous design. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The DVD release benefits from a crisp remastering of Stern's original cinematography, which captures often vivid, highly saturated colors. The 5.1 audio mix, apparently pulled from monaural elements, opens up the sound without attempting a more precise directional presentation. Menu options include chapter access to individual performances, a complete festival playlist, Web links, and a 30-minute interactive documentary with director Stern, including additional scenes. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The sound is marginally better on the DVD, and thankfully, the DVD was much less costly - I paid Can$85 for the VHS tape in 1963, as it was very scarce even then.
But Bert Stern really made a magnificent visual record of the performances, with a great feel for Newport in the late 1950s, and marvellous - sometimes almost surreal - camerawork; though I wasn't there, watching this movie transports you there very delightfully.
Having said all that, the purchaser of this DVD still owns perhaps the best example of photographed jazz until films like Clint Eastwood's "Bird" and Bertrand Tavernier's "Round Midnight" appeared more than 30 years after this documentation of an idyllic, if unexceptional, moment in the music's history. Come to think of it, there's more pure jazz--in terms of quantity as well as variety--in this film than in the two aforementioned examples.
Filmmaker Bert Stern knew the body of Marilyn Monroe (his other noteworthy subject), but he knew nothing about jazz. Not only does the film seem all the more remarkable for his ignorance, but as an "outsider" to the music, he was in a better position to train his cameras and microphones on the images likely to appeal to the broadest audience even today ("Bird" and "Round Midnight" not only kept viewers away but were received poorly by viewers not already "in the know" about Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Lester Young and Dexter Gordon).Read more ›
Cinematography: This film looks like it was shot yesterday. I viewed the DVD on a 32 inch TV and I felt like I could almost reach out and touch the performers and the audience. One of the reviewers below said that the 50s never seemed so real. I have to agree.
Presentation: I can't believe that Bert Stern decided to intercut Monk's performance with footage of America's Cup trials and, even worse, a radio announcement talking about the trials. It's bad enough not being able to fully enjoy visually a vintage Monk performance (and how many times have you seen Monk without a hat?!) but to not be able to HEAR the full performance because of the radio announcement is damn near unforgivable. I also wish that Stern could have/would have used the split-screen effects used in the later Woodstock movie showing the crowd/trials/Newport shots on one side and the performers on the other. With that said, I did enjoy the crowd shots, particularly the beautiful lady shown during Sonny Stitt's set, the beautiful woman with a big hat shown seated during several performances, and the reaction of the audience during Mahalia Jackson's set.
1. Anita O'Day is so beautiful and her hat and dress looked so perfect that just seeing her justified the cost of the DVD. And she sings wonderfully to boot.
2. It was interesting to watch Chuck Berry perform "Sweet Little Sixteen" backed by Jo Jones on drums! Jack Teagarden was also standing by but I don't know if he played on this number.Read more ›
The film is beautifully shot, focusing on the performances, the music and atmosphere, but without a documentary. It doesn't need one! The way Bert Stern moves from artiste to audience is superb. Cool performers and guys in the audience, young and old all on the "afterbeat". Wonderful to see Monk playing "Blue Monk", Anita O'Day singing "Georgia Brown". Dig that hat!! And Mr Shearing with quintet, performing a late slot - fantastic!
The icing on the cake is an interactive journey, narrated by Mr Stern, behind the scenes of the film. He tells you his thinking, his emerging appreciation of jazz and his roots in photography. This is interlinked with specific sequences from his unique film. As the liner notes say "I was just . . . basically a photographer who wanted to make a movie before I was 30 . . . it was a form of a documentary and had a lot to do with photograhy . . . it wasn't something that I had ever seen before and it just intrigued me . . . it's more of of a happening. . . interpretive, happening . . ."
The quality of the video and audio is brilliant. If you appreciate photography or jazz, or like me . . . both, this film is a real must. Highly recommended! Regards to all, JON' B.
Most recent customer reviews
Wonderful visual link to an earlier time at Newport. It captures the atmosphere beautifully. Anita O'Day is the highlight with one of the best jazz vocal presentations on film.Published 15 months ago by netcole
Doesn't play on PS3 in Canada. Great performances, but Monk's is too short.Published 19 months ago by André Pelletier
DVD (Charly release; ASIN: B00005NX0L): 6/10
Picture quality: 6,5/10
Sound: 6/10; mono
Aspect ratio: 1,33:1 (orig. Read more
The only way it could be better is if it were 4 times as long. Worth the investment purely for Anita O'Day, (her stage name was adopted from Pig Latin for "dough" as in... Read morePublished on May 28 2014 by Robert T. Boyter
Amazzzzzzing doc ... Timeless ...great performances... A slice of jazz of days gone by. Bert Stern original Mad Man <3Published on Aug. 17 2013 by TCJ
A fantastic color documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Fest. It's a chance to see and hear the truly great stars who are no longer among us but still wield enormous influence. Read morePublished on July 27 2012 by scarsdale15
Bert Stern has both an eye and an ear for jazz, par excellence, capturing the spirit of the Newport Jazz festival in its heyday. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2003 by James Ferguson
Bert Stern was a still photographer who got the opportunity to take a film crew to the 1959 Newport Jazz festival. Read morePublished on May 9 2003 by Tom Tuerff
I have always loved this documentary, but there wasn't enough Dinah Washington for my taste. I have the album, "Dinah Washington at Newport '58" and she sings Bessie... Read morePublished on April 16 2003 by Oliver Penn
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