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4.7 out of 5 stars
Jazz on a Summer's Day
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133 of 141 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2000
Format: DVD
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.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2001
Format: DVD
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.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2000
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 17, 2003
Format: DVD
Bert Stern has both an eye and an ear for jazz, par excellence, capturing the spirit of the Newport Jazz festival in its heyday. This is a wonderful showcase of performances, ranging from the detached Thelonius Monk to the super cool Anita O'Day. But, without doubt, the performance that stands out is that of Mahalia Jackson who brings the crowd to their feet with "40 Days" and then brings them to their knees with her closing psalm, so passionately felt.
The movie takes you through a figurative day, capturing the sea air of Newport, the quiet practice sessions, the ebb and flow of the crowd as it grows to its evening peak, with a rocking performance by Chuck Berry. The Satchmo takes a wonderful turn at the mike with Jack Teargarden joining him in a fun duet. Chico Hamilton is there in all his seriousness with Eric Dolphy highlighting the band's performance. George Shearer looks like he could be playing at the Hollywood Bowl.
I was hoping for more extras on the DVD. The movie leaves you craving for more music. The 50's were the peak of the hip jazz scene and this movie is as hip as they come.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2003
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2000
Format: DVD
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.
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58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2000
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
This is without a doubt a video any serious jazz enthusiast must have. Not because it is such a great movie, as the liner notes pompously want to imply. On the contrary, what's so great about this movie is that one can see and hear many jazzmen in action. It's actually a shame we don't get more, since for long endless sequences we are kept starving for the protagonists, namely those who make the music and are the main reason for this video.
Here is the reconstructed list (missing from jacket and film) of the performers, in order of appearance:
1.The Jimmy Giuffre (ts) - Bob Brookmeyer (vtb) - Jim Hall (g) trio
2.Thelonious Monk (p), Henry Grimes (b), Roy Haynes (d)
3.The Sonny Still (ts) - Sal Salvador (g) group
4.Anita O' Day
5.The George Shearing Quintet
6.Dinah Washington, with probably Terry Gibbs (vibes), Urbie Green (tb), Max Roach (d)
7.The Art Farmer - Gerry Mulligan Quartet
8.Big Maybelle, with an ad-hoc orchestra
9.Chuck Berry
10.The Chico Hamilton Quartet, with Eric Dolphy (fl)
11.The Louis Armstrong All Stars, with Trummy Young(tb), Barney Bigard (cl), probably Arvell Shaw (b), Danny Barcelona (d), joined by Jack Teagarden on Rockin' Chair
12.Mahalia Jackson
All perform at the top of their form. This is not to say, however, that the video is not marred by some deficiencies. Most annoying is the talking on top of a performance, the excessive and lengthy shots of a not-too-competent public, lengthy extraneous scenes with unexciting landscapes, and a general attitude of putting jazz music in the background. There are some nonchalant omissions: such as the unmentioned band with a singer, not shown, between appearances 1. and 2., rehearsing "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" with an Ellington-sounding reed section. Also between 1. and 2., and between 4. and 5., we have to swallow the looks and music of a Dixieland band (Ely's Chosen Six ?) the members of which do not seem to know that jazz playing is about generating swing; and some other boring pseudo-classical and classical stuff between 2. and 3. (with flute, cello, guitar) and 4. and 5 (classical cello playing Bach).
In my subjective opinion, the best performances are those by:
Thelonious Monk, playing his masterpiece Blue Monk, unfortunately marred by some inconsequential and unnecessary talking (about the weather!) over his great solo. Notice the strange (for today) comment about his being "unconcerned", as well as the failure to recognize Monk's deep sense of the blues and respect for the tradition.
The Sonny Stitt's group playing Blues Walk, unfortunately cut at the beginning and again dented by a superimposed voice presentation. Notice the marvelous solo by Sal Salvador on guitar, while the camera moves to boats instead of focusing on his wonderful hands - funny also that we mostly see his left hand only, as if he were playing single-handed; same for Stitt. It seems the cameramen had not yet learned about zooms, movements etc. Enhanced by (short) shots of a beautiful black lady in blue.
Big Maybelle, who is as lovely as her voice is hoarse. Beautifully accompanied by Buck Clayton - great solo on his trumpet - and Jo Jones (d), both ex-Basie alumni well immersed in the spirit of the traditional blues. Too bad we do not hear more of that broad-toned saxophonist seen at the far right before the performance and heard in the riffs. Slightly marred by lengthy shots of a not-too-good-looking red-clad lady who does not seem to know how to dance.
Chuck Berry playing his Sweet Little Sixteen, who modestly demonstrates what king Elvis has never learned, with shots a man who does really know how to dance (cut above the head! maybe because he was dark-skinned?). Only slightly marred by a solo on the clarinet, probably by Peanuts Hucko, who tries hard to get in the heat of the mood without quite succeeding (perhaps the saxophonist mentioned above would have done better). All the same, a great performance.
Louis Armstrong's All Stars. Satchmo, in spite of the sorry state of his lips, well visible, shows his mastery of the trumpet: the note he slides and recaptures twice in Lazy River, and always the powerful presence of his no-nonsense and sensual tone, for which he is justly famous. Barney Bigard is heard little in Tiger Rag, Trummy Young practically not at all, Danny Barcelona does not get too much in the way - even the abused and fearsome When the Saints, heard last, gets through without problems - and Jack Teagarden is seen and heard singing Rockin' Chair with Louis. Of whom we admire also the initial jokes about his European acquaintances, with his colorful way of talking, which shines in its originality, opposed to the boring formality of the show master (Willis Conover?).
Mahalia Jackson, with the deep, moving intensity of a great jazz singer (even though she sings the gospel: about Our Heaven, Our Lord, etc.) and the tender freshness of a little girl - she was 47 at that time. A simple accompaniment of piano and bass lets her presence and soul dominate the place.
Of course one can't forget the dazzling, professional and exciting show by the great Anita O' Day, an example of exceptional vocal technique. The interventions by Art Farmer in the Gerry Mulligan group, the latter quite disappointing, and by Eric Doplhy in an otherwise boring and pretentious performance by the Chico Hamilton Quintet. Dinah Washington's interplay with the vibraphonist, probably Terry Gibbs, in All of Me is also a good moment - with a great trombone player, probably Urbie Green. While most of what was praised at the time, such as the music by Hamilton, Shearing (some Latin stuff, put to shame by any old Cuban or modern Salsa band), Mulligan and Giuffre, has terribly dated with time and lost universality - not so for Monk and the others singled out above.
To conclude, this is a video worth seeing. And studying. Many times. Even at the cost of closing one's eyes occasionally and glossing over some irritating poor choices of images and other esthetic misjudgments. But we can be happy the filmmakers allow us to see those great jazzmen in action, most of them dead by now, over forty years after the edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, in color and with excellent sound.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
From the very beginning of the documentary, one can see the creative license of the producers by focusing the cameras on the sun-baked, glistening ocean scene of Newport. This brings us back to a much more simple and appealing era. The color of this movie is vivid for its time and the music of jazz is very intoxication. I loved the way the cameras showcased the legendary artists of this era. Some were great for only that time but others, like Mahalia Jackson reveal why her appeal was and still is breathtaking, never to be forgotton nor possible to immitate. Mahalia sang her heart out and with such humility, looks at the waves of applause from jazz enthusiasts ,who were captivated by her dynamic performance and very humbly declares with a motherly wit "You make me feel like I'm a Star" Mahalia was more than a Star and she did not even know it. Jazz enthusiasts and gospel fans..this is one you do not want to miss!!!
Noel Serrano
Mahalia Jackson Group
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
This is not a music video, nor is it exactly a documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Instead, it is a mixture of Americana, people watching, music and Newport itself. In fact, a lot of the scenery - aside from the town of Newport - is of regattas. I felt as though I were wisked back to 1958 (I was 9 at the time of the festival). So, the good news is you go on a trip down memory lane. The bad news is the camera isn't always on the performers.

Headliners: Jimmy Giuffre, Thelonious Monk, Henry Grimes, Sonny Stitt, Sal Salvador, Anita O'Day, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Big Maybelle Chuck Berry, Chico Hamilton, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Mahalia Jackson.

Supporting musicians: David Baily, Bob Brookmeyer, Buck Clayton, Bill Crow, Eric Dolphy, Eli's Chosen Six (short segment), Art Farmer, Harold Gaylon, Nathan Gershman, Terry Gibbs, Urbie Green, Jim Hall, Peanuts Hucko, Jo Jones, Ray Mosca, Armando Peraza, Max Roach, Rudy Rutherford.

The performances:
Train And The River (The Jimmy Guiffre Trio)

Blue Monk (Thelonious Monk)

Loose Walk (Sonny Stitt)

Sweet Georgia Brown & Tea For Two (Anita O'Day) Sweet Georgia Brown was in a strange tempo, but when Tea for Two got underway a real highlight - aside from Anita's great singing and good looks - was when she traded phrases with the drummer. I don't recall any shots of the drummer, unfortunately, so that would have been a disappointment except the camera cut to some cuties in the audience. Of course, those cuties are now in their 70s and 80s or dead.

All Of Me (Dinah Washington) This was the highlight for me. Dinah, at one point, picked up a pair of mallets and did a duet with the vibe player (with a smiling Max Roach looking on). Max was in great form and Dinah did a remarkable job on the vibes! Oh, and this rendition is probably her finest. If you've ever listened to a Dinah Washington compilation album with All of Me on it, this may be the cut you heard.

Catch As Catch Can (Gerry Mulligan) Great 50s style jazz.

I Ain't Mad At You (Big Maybelle) Blues epitomized!

Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry)Until I watched this video this was my favorite clip. I discovered it on YouTube and it's the first post in Post Your Favorite YouTube Videos thread. Jo Jones on drums. Chuck doing his skip-walk across the stage while Jack Teagarten is looking on not knowing what to think, and the unidentified clarinet player getting into it.

Blue Sands (Chico Hamilton Quintet) On the fence about this one. Chico is a great and innovative drummer who did some amazing mallet work (now I know why he used concert toms). The piece, though, was a cross between Carribean and New Age. It definitely grew on me.

Up A Lazy River, Tiger Rag, Rockin' Chair, When The Saints (Louis Armstrong) The drummer, Danny Bercelona, was a chops monster with great taste. The duet with Jack Teagarten and Louis was great.

Walk Over God's Heaven / Didn't It Rain, The Lord's Prayer (Mahalia Jackson) What can I say? - there never was nor will there ever be again a Mahalia. What a grand finale.

I watch this at least once every other month because it brings me pleasure from both the music and the nostalgic reminder of my youth (I was nine years old at the time so the overall scenes from that era are still vivid in my memory.) But the music itself is simply great and have withstood the test of time very nicely. This is film that music and history lovers alike will enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2012
Format: DVD
~ Bert Stern only made one movie in his career, and it is visually stunning. From the start it is clear that Bert Stern is a visual artist with a great understanding of perspective, angle, selective focus, and image composition. That is what made him such a successful photographer. He set out to produce a document of a special weekend in Newport, and he succeeded. He did a great job of incorporating scenes from the America's Cup trials of that weekend along with scenes of the local people going about their wealthy lives plus the unique event of the jazz festival. He was able to subtly show the co-existence of the ultra-rich at leisure and the musicians at work. Through images of the crowd he was able to show the fact that at an event such as a jazz festival people of all races and ages could enjoy each others company - in the 1950's in America that was not always the case.
~ The bonus features include an extensive interview with Bert Stern that is enlightening. Not only does he outline his concepts in putting together the documentary but he gives credit where credit is due when he talks about the contribution of the Avakian brothers. That interview also clearly indicates his intent to make this something other than just a concert film. In addition to the interview on the DVD, the liner notes accompanying the DVD provide futher insight.
~ Others have written about the fact that this is not a "concert film" in the broadest sense of that phrase, and Stern makes it clear that he did not intend it to be strictly a "concert film". For that reason, people looking for a film that documents all or most of the performances from that weekend are rightfully disappointed. However, the film does give us some wonderful moments and the opportunity to watch performances by artists who we would not otherwise be able to see. Where else can you see video of Jimmy Giuffre with Bob Brookmeyer or Chico Hamilton's band practicing or Chuck Berry improvising with a clarinetist or the absolutely stunning sight of Mahalia Jackson casting a calming spell over an audience by singing "The Lord's Prayer". By editing together the images of Miss Jackson and her captivated crowd, Stern is able to demonstrate the power of music. Of course, this is the movie in which Anita O'Day delivers her marvelous performance that rocketed her to international stardom and brought her to the attention of a broad audience.
~ The insert liner notes and the interview also indicate that there are tens of thousands of feet of film archived somewhere waiting to be explored. Hopefully someday someone will take up the challenge and go through all that film and give us a more complete view of the music from that weekend. But for now we should be thankful that we have this beautifully captured and excellently edited document of a time when people went to a concert unencumbered by electronic devices, e-mail, text messages, etc and all they did was enjoy the music.
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