Review: Jazz on a Summer’s Day (4K Restoration)

Title: Jazz on a Summer’s Day
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Bert Stern
Starring: Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Chuck Berry
Runtime: 1 hr 25 mins

What It Is: This concert film documents the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. The film is mainly comprised of different clips from the concert performances, audience reactions and clips from the 1958 America’s Cup Yacht races that took place on the same day as the festival. Among the performers shown throughout the film are Thelonius Monk, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and Mahalia Jackson.

What We Think: While the jazz music and performers are the focal points of this film, the visual component wasn’t left as an afterthought. While watching this I really felt immersed in the festival as though I was actually there even though it took place over sixty years ago! This film really brought out the joy of listening to music with the sincere reactions shown of the crowd and while watching it I couldn’t help but feel that all I wanted was to somehow make my way back in time to the 1950s and absorb a simpler way of life while listening to some jazz. The film itself looked really good. A lot of close-ups were utilized when the performers were on a screen which helped highlight just how dedicated and determined the musicians were when engaging with their craft. There were also some low angles of the artists which really made them appear larger than life. Watching the film did feel like a journey with the goal of finally reaching the destination of Louis Armstrong’s performance which really was the highlight of the film. All in all the journey was certainly one with taking.

Our Grade: B-, Personally, I don’t watch a lot of concert films but after watching this one I might have to watch more. Truly, the best part of this film was how it highlighted just how music can bring people together and elevate even the most normal moments in people’s lives. While the music was all entertaining and the visuals kept my interest for the most part (especially the clips of the yacht races that were cut together well with the other footage), this film still is just a concert film. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you certainly can’t go wrong with watching the film even if you’re not a self-proclaimed jazz fan.

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Cal Gessner Written by: