Friday, March 21, 2014

Jazz on A Summer's Day

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sadly, my DVD/VHS combo recently decided to end its days of service leaving me with some Jazz video tapes that need to be replaced by their digital equivalents.

Fortunately, only a few films are involved as I made the switch to DVD long ago.

And, fortunately, too, is the fact that the few VHS tapes that need to be replaced are also available on DVD.

One of these, Bert Stern's Jazz on A Summer’s Day, has long been my favorite and while searching for it on I came across this annotation that perfectly encapsulates my feelings and thoughts about the film.

The world of Jazz has changed dramatically from the summer of 1958 when Jazz on a Summer’s Day was filmed, but then the one constant in the universe has always been change.

At the conclusion of this piece, I’ve added a clip from Bert’s film that feature Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall performing The Train and the River.

Irrespective of the constant change in life, I think you'll find this performance by Jimmy, Bob and Jim to be timeless.

“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

Product Description

This precursor to Woodstock is the granddaddy of all concert films, a chronicle of the 1958 Newport, Rhode Island Jazz Fest where music greats like Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day, Chuck Berry, Mahalia Jackson, George Shearing, and Dinah Washington gave electrifying performances. 84 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1; "making of" featurette.

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