Jazz On A Summers Day

This documentary concert film captures the sounds and performances of some of the major jazz artists at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Unlike earlier jazz movies that had been filmed in smoky black and white, this is shot in vibrant color. While musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day and Mahalia Jackson perform, images of beaches, sailboats on water, dancing couples and the faces of joyful audience members are intercut into the proceedings.

Press & Reviews

Aug 14, 2020

The first feature-length concert film with live sound, Jazz on a Summer’s Day paved the way for movies like Monterey Pop and Woodstock. Photographing the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, director Bert Stern and his crew captured performances by Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington and Louis Armstrong, among many others. A historic achievement, added to the National Film Registry in 1999, it was the first opportunity for some viewers to see these stars on stage, in color. To celebrate the film’s 60th anniversary, the non-profit IndieCollect and the National Film Preservation Foundation financed a new, 4K restoration that enhanced the soundtrack as well as the color camerawork.

Aug 13, 2020

There’s no shortage of reasons to catch the current reissue of 1959’s “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,”  with superb music and spectacularly good photography at the top of the list.

But at a time when most of us are spending way too many hours sequestered in our homes, Bert Stern and Aram Avakian’s record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival also hits an achingly romantic note,  taking us back to a time when it was safe for hundreds of us to assemble to hear music played by racially integrated bands.

Aug 13, 2020

If the eyes of concertgoers at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival ever wandered from watching the likes of Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson onstage, they might have caught the photographer Bert Stern lugging camera equipment through the heat, capturing footage for this concert movie. Filmed in color with intimate, close up shots of musicians interspersed with atmospheric fly-on-the-wall scenes from the audience and around Newport, the documentary gives a lyrical look at the 1958 festival, whose performers also included Dinah Washington and the trombonist Jack Teagarden, who duetted with Armstrong. When the film debuted in New York in 1960, Bosley Crowther wrote in his review for The New York Times that it delivered, sonically, “as generous a dish of top jazz music as any cat could take in one gulp.” 

Aug 13, 2020

The key to enjoying “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” may be in knowing that the movie is as interested in the second part of its title as the first.

Not exactly a concert film, “Summer’s Day” opens with impressionistic shots of shimmering water, presumably near the shore of Newport, R.I. That’s where the newly restored movie takes place, on a 1958 day when the Newport Jazz Festival and the America’s Cup yacht race were in full swing. Directors Bert Stern and Aram Avakian wander all over Newport in a way that could annoy jazz fans who come to the movie for the music, but has more to do with boundless curiosity than disrespecting the jazz masters the movie keeps cutting away from.

Aug 12, 2020

Yes, as Richard Brody and others have pointed out, JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY—photographer Bert Stern’s indelible documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival—could have been a different kind of film. Sonny Rollins, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Miles Davis—with John Coltrane in his sextet—were also in Newport that year, but their performances didn’t make the final cut.

Yet the film remains one of the greatest jazz documentaries ever made, a picture of the art form at its peak just as rock and roll was about to replace it as the country’s most popular musical genre.

Aug 12, 2020

If you've ever longed to see some of the greatest jazz legends in history perform live, O Cinema's latest virtual feature is about the closest you can get. Photographer Bert Stern filmed the feature-length concert film Jazz on a Summer's Day at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958. Released the following year, the movie has become a classic of the genre, and possibly the first concert film ever made. Jazz on a Summer's Day places viewers right among the crowd of concertgoers, as greats like Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O'Day, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, and Mahalia Jackson take the stage.

Aug 12, 2020

For jazzheads, the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival remains the genre’s high-water mark in terms of performance. Capturing the show was commercial photographer Bert Stern, whose concert film of the event features one giant after another -- Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Sonny Stitt, Chuck Berry and Mahalia Jackson.

Aug 12, 2020

Jazz on a Summer’s Day (On Demand)

Filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and directed by world-renowned photographer Bert Stern, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” features intimate performances by an all-star line-up of musical legends including Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O’Day, Chuck Berry and Dinah Washington, and closes with a beautiful rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” by Mahalia Jackson at midnight to usher in Sunday morning. (4 stars)

Aug 11, 2020

“Jazz on a Summer’s Day”: This is a restoration of a documentary shot at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which has been called one of the first and best concert films. Stars of the show include Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk and Dinah Washington.

As New Yorker critic Richard Brody pointed out, though, demanding — and sometimes politically charged — modern jazz players at the festival such as Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis were left on the cutting-room floor.

Aug 11, 2020

It’s one of the greatest jazz documentaries ever made and perhaps the most sumptuously ever filmed.

For Bert Stern and Aram Avakian’s “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” does more than chronicle highlights of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Unlike uncounted jazz films, it ignores the usual jazz clichés, refusing to portray its cast of musicians as victims of addiction and other vices. Instead, its subjects emerge simply as the brilliant performers they are. Whatever offstage faults and flaws they may share with the rest of us, they stand apart once they step into the spotlight because of the caliber of their art.

Aug 10, 2020

Filmmakers Bert Stern and Arm Avakian filmed “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, capturing performances by Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington and numerous other icons of the era. Look out for a notable performance by Mahalia Jackson which includes her performance of The Lord’s Prayer.

Aug 10, 2020

The archival music-lover’s bonanza of Bert Stern and Aram Avakian’s 1959 Jazz on a Summer’s Day, an unprecedented enterprise at the time (it preceded the vogue for concert films by some years) that remains arguably the greatest screen jazz showcase ever. Compiling “highlights” from the prior year’s Newport Festival, it has a stage rollcall that can still make one nearly faint—Louie Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Garry Mulligan, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, Thelonious Monk, Anita O’Day, on and on—quite brilliantly shot by famed photographer Stern and editor Avakian, both making their directorial bows. Newly restored, it is being added to the CinemaSF, Roxie and BAMPFA virtual cinema programs this week.

Aug 10, 2020

Released in the U.S. to glowing reviews in March 1960, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” the 85-minute film made at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, boldly breaks many “rules” of documentaries: There’s no story at its center, cameras keep jumping away from its main subjects, it’s much more impressionistic than focused. And all of that works to its advantage.

Aug 7, 2020

Right about now, in any other year, many of us would be gearing up for a trip to Newport, R.I.

This year, of course, is different. The Newport Jazz Festival is one of countless pleasures put on hold, with a hopeful marker in place for next year. Which got us thinking not only about what we’re missing, but also about what the festival means — as a summer ritual, as a rite of passage, as a historical nexus, as a brand name.

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