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 ph... more »otographer 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« less
Sean D. Young | Salt Lake City, UT USA | 03/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to some comments on this list, this film is not a documentary or concert film. It is a visionary work of art. It's like Robert Franks' book THE AMERICANS coming to life. If you don't know what that is about, see for yourself. This is the America that Kerouac loved. And if you don't know what that means, find out before it's too late.This film is really about a summers day in America in 1958. As a musician, a Jazz lover, a poet and a film buff, this film is the best of all worlds. It is pure poetry. It is like seeing the world through Kerouac's heart-filled eyes. Eyes we all have, but forget in our daily malaise. Notice the minute particulars, the spontaneous nature of life. Speaking of Beats, if you look real close you can see Gregory Corso in a couple of audience shots.Jazz on a Summers day is about time and place. It freezes a moment in time and makes it eternal. A time when jazz was common music of american culture. A summers day when people living in the cold war and the Eisenhower era kick off their shoes and truly live. It is filled with moments of deep sighs, AH. Like, the shot of the young girl singing along with Satchmo, if that's not art I don't know what is. The performers too, Mahalia Jackson is a great bodhisattva/angel. The cinematography is vibrant. You've never seen the fifties this real.I actually love the parts that digress from the festival. Even though I regret not seeing all of Monk. But it's still magnanimous, and contrary to another comment, the stage announcer that says Monk is "unconcerned" should be understood as Monk is on a different level. He makes music for different reasons. If you don't what that means, just listen. Monk will whisper to you in a dream.This was a time when the music was more than just refined listening for museums and chamber halls, it oozed into everything. Seeing the boating footage with the Jazz, it's just poetic. Jazz is part of life. It is the expression of life. The people are having a good time on a summers day. A day that seems so far away. This will never happen again. Not like this. This is what great films and art are made of.There is beauty in every waking moment my friends. Just look. Breathe. Feel. Thank you Bert Stern."
Jazz on a summers day
jon barker | GLOUCESTER, GLOS United Kingdom | 06/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I live in Gloucestershire, England and could not find this DVD in UK. Thanks to Amazon and the Web, my copy arrived in (...)days! I first saw this wonderful film many years ago and I remember how it affected me. A passion for jazz AND photography makes this film the perfect vehicle to soak up the atmosphere of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. I would have been 8 years old when it was filmed and even at that early age, I was into Monk, Mulligan and Shearing. George lives just up the road from me and I know him quite well. He would have been 39 in 1958.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."
Great music -- decent movie
Tom Tuerff | 04/24/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this DVD with a bit of trepidation, unsure of whether my image of what could be with the DVD format and what this disk might use would match. From a musical standpoint, this is an outstanding addition to the collection. Theloneus Monk, in particular, stands out.From a movie standpoint, it's o.k. I was fascinated the first time I watched it for about a half an hour. After that, the crowd scenes and the boat races do not add as much to the musical landscape. And while it is interesting movie-making that there is no real narration, letting the sounds come from the artists, the crowd, and an occassional clip, some explanation of who we are seeing or what is going on might be helpful, if only for future reference. Perhaps the only downside to the DVD is that it provides a complete playlist for the festival which reads as a roster of jazz greats, with performances by Ray Charles and Chuck Berry thrown in. Yet the movie only plays a portion of those and I am left to wonder why so many great artists were left out of the final version--the production notes indicate the musicians signed on out of curiosity and does not mention any hold-outs, yet many are forgotten. While this is good, that additional knowledge makes me long for something more, where Miles Davis and others were included in the feature. Still, this is a remarkable musical piece with decent eye candy, making it much more worth the purchase price that the numerous movies that will only be watched once and then forgotten."
This isnt a "Concert Film", it is a time Capsule
jon barker | 06/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A great Film, my only dissapointment was the ommision of theDuke Ellington set, closing the actual event. This is an art film, thecinemaphotography is outstanding. The use of shape and light is masterful. Musical Highlights that ARE included in my opinion, are Anita O'Day, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, and Monk.If you are a (open minded!) jazz fan, and a art genre fan this is the film you have been waiting for!DVD Info: Excellent color and sharpness. Audio is in Dolby Digital Mono. Crisp clear tone. Extras include a complete playlist for all three days of the festival. An interview with Bert Stern (both text and audio) with accompanying documentary imagery relating to Mr. Stern's other works mentioned in interview. Much insightful discussion about the planning, filming and post production of the film. Very fascinating and well worth the price. Now, it may be me, but it seems that i noticed some brief segments of footage in the DVD release that i never noticed on my VHS copy. But im not running the VHS again to check, this DVD is so much better!"
A piece of yesterday, live and in color
Tom Tuerff | That there Phoenix place | 05/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bert Stern was a still photographer who got the opportunity to take a film crew to the 1959 Newport Jazz festival. With limited time and film, Stern and his crew set out not just to record a musical event, but to record a social experience. For the most part, he succeeds, although there is more than enough footage of a boat race on Chesapeake bay that day to last me for the rest of my life. The film cuts from performances to reactions of the crowd, as any concert film would. It's interesting to see the wide difference in clothing styles that appealed to people in 1959. Everything from men in suits to greasers in denim can be seen dancing and grooving along with the music. People living nearby the festival can be seen partying on their roofs and dancing, booze in hand, to the music. People of every age are shown bopping along with whoever is on stage at the time.Highlights: Anita O'Day's spot-on performance, in spite of the fact that she's well into her much-ballyhooed drug and booze habit (in a recent radio interview she said she couldn't remember doing this gig after even watching the film); Louis Armstrong, Jerry Mulligan, and the rather out-of-place, clearly there-for-the-kids but dressed to the nines and behaving himself, Chuck Berry. Older jazz guys have no idea what to make of Chuck, and one guy, in an attempt to "jazz up" Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen," starts playing some rather odd clarinet runs. Think "Sweet Little Bar Mitzvah." There's a nice bunch of extras on here, too, including an interview with Stern that expalins a lot about what was going on.
If you like jazz, or documentaries, or just good music, this is a keeper."