By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Jazz on a Summer’s Day is a film by Bert Stern and Aram Avakian. It stars Jazz greats for a bygone era that include Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O’Day, Chuck Berry and a bonus ending by the great Mahalia Jackson
Filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island 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, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O’Day, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, and closes with a beautiful rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” by Mahalia Jackson at midnight to usher in Sunday morning.
The 1959 classic is considered one of the most extraordinary and possibly the first concert film ever made. Its sparkling new 4K restoration by IndieCollect, recently premiered at the 57th New York Film Festival. The film was named to the National Film Registry in 1999, and its restoration was funded by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress in time to celebrate the film’s 60th anniversary.
“Gorgeous. It’s probably the best feature-length jazz concert movie ever made.” — Chicago Reader
“A dazzling array of jazz and Rock’n’Roll giants are captured on celluloid. Unquestionable highlight is the extraordinary Mahalia Jackson, whose soulful renditions send a shiver down the spine.” — Time Out
“The musicians are all in their prime. They are photographed and recorded gorgeously. The viewers are absolutely made to feel that we are actually there, in Newport, on a sunny Saturday afternoon and evening.” — Chicago JazzMagazine
I recently watched this film on a Saturday night, and it was great to see all these Jazz icons, as well as the audience reaction to their performances. Monk was a smooth as silk, Anita O’Day was dressed for Sunday church in her hat. It was like a carnival atmosphere on the outside of the performance venue, which made for a great day of Jazz.
There were folks dancing on rooftops and drinks being served to ultra-hip people in an adjacent bar. The Newport Blues Band accompanied Big Maybelle, as she belted out [One day I want to quit you, but] “I Ain’t Mad At You.” Berry hopped around the stage with his guitar, bellowing “Sweet Little Sixteen.” I read from online articles that placing Berry on the bill was unusual, considering he wasn’t a Jazz act. Armstrong told a story about touring in Italy, Brussels and London, while sharing a story of being weighed in “stone,” a British weight measurement after eating all around town. Of course, he blew out via his trumpet a pleasing “When The Saints Go Marching In,” among others, for the audience.
But to me the treat through it all—aside from seeing how the audience immensely enjoyed all of the acts—was when the “Queen of Gospel” at that time showed up—looking young and shy. Mahalia Jackson brought the evening to a close, after a day of one Jazz act after another. She sang “Heaven,” “Didn’t It Rain,” and closed with “The Lord’s Prayer.” The audience simply adored her, and she acknowledged the love by saying, “You make me feel like I’m a star.”
Take a look at all the stars on “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” which is available for virtual viewing through Kino Marquee, and it is an initiative that creates Virtual Cinemas for temporarily closed or gradually reopening independent theaters. By purchasing a “ticket,” you’ll be directly supporting Music Box Theatre, as all revenue is being shared between distributor and exhibitor—just as if you bought your ticket at the theater’s box office.
For information on the film and rentals, click here: https://musicboxtheatre.com/films/jazz-on-a-summers-day.
Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE61BqSvdi4.
Pricing & Scheduling:
Rentals are $12 and are good for a five-day pass. Your purchase will go toward supporting Music Box Theatre during its gradual reopening.
Become a member: https://www.musicboxtheatre.com/membership/become-a-member.