Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim Hall, Thelonious Monk, Henry Grimes, Roy Haynes, Sonny Stitt, Sal Salvador, Anita O'Day, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Big Maybelle, Chuck Berry, Chico Hamilton, Eric Dolphy, Louis Armstrong, Trummy Young, Danny Barcelona, Jack Teagarden, Mahalia Jackson
Written by: Albert D'Annibale, Arnold Perl
Directed by: Aram Avakian, Bert Stern
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 08/01/1959

Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Grace Notes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The superb, essential "Jazz on a Summer's Day," a 1959 film by noted photographer Bert Stern, has been newly restored for 2020. It will be available through virtual cinema programs at the Roxie Theater, the Smith Rafael Film Center, and elsewhere. A legendary lineup of musicians includes Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, the Chico Hamilton Quintet with Eric Dolphy, Louis Armstrong, and, capping it all off, the mighty Mahalia Jackson. Shot at the 1958 at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the movie perhaps isn't the most technically polished concert film ever made, but Stern makes everything pulse and breathe with his curious, wandering shots of audience members, both enraptured and bored, as well as shots of a nearby yacht race. He captures the changing moods from bright day to enchanting night. It's a joyous film. My only quibble is that Monk should have been given more than one song (he performs the beautiful "Blue Monk"). But either way, don't miss this great film.

In 2021, Kino Lorber released this film on an essential Blu-ray, a must for any jazz-lover's library. The picture and sound are better than I've ever seen. (The audio is now mastered in DTS-HD and 2.0.) Music journalist Natalie Weiner provides an appreciative and informative commentary track, and we get a 2011 documentary on director Stern, archival interviews with Stern, a photo gallery, optional subtitles, and a 12-page liner notes booklet.

Movies Unlimtied