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Film / Jazz on a Summer's Day

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Anita O'Day wearing a nice hat

Jazz on a Summer's Day is a 1960 concert film directed by Bert Stern, with jazz record producer George Avakian credited as musical director.

It is a film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, shot in Technicolor. The staggering amount of talent performing in the festival included Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong, and the best gospel singer to ever live, Mahalia Jackson. Chuck Berry showed up to inject some rock into the jazz festival, and performs a blistering rendition of his then-new single "Sweet Little Sixteen". Interpolated throughout the film are scenes staged for the movie of a Dixieland jazz band traveling around Newport in an old jalopy and performing.note 

One of the first feature-length concert films, although not the first (that would be 1948 film Concert Magic). Compare 1940s short film Jammin' the Blues; drummer Jo Jones appears in both.

Director Bert Stern is better known as a still photographer who shot Marilyn Monroe's iconic 1962 nude pictorial, "The Last Sitting". Jazz on a Summer's Day was his only film.


  • Concert Film: A murderer's row of jazz artists on stage, with detours to rock (Chuck Berry) and gospel (Mahalia Jackson). Does not qualify as Rockumentary as there are no documentary tropes like a Narrator or Talking Heads.
  • Dramatization: When it came time to assemble the theatrical cut the producers became convinced that there weren't enough audience shots. So many of the audience shots seen in the film were recorded well after the fact, with people brought in and seated on artificial grass to watch a rough cut of the movie.
  • The End: The first credit in the film simply says "Jazz on a Summer's Day". At the end there's a credit in the same font saying "End of a Summer's Day", before the closing credits roll.
  • Hitler Cam: Much of the concert scenes are shot with cameras from ground level, causing the artists to loom above as they perform onstage.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: What apparently is a guy on the radio, talking about the need to drive safely during the festival, is played over a shot of a sports car making an aggressive high-speed turn and cutting in front of another car.
  • Melismatic Vocals: Mahalia Jackson's trademark, which she does during her performance. ("Didn't it ra-a-a-a-a-in?")
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The last shot shows the Dixieland jazz band zipping away on the coast road in their jalopy.
  • The Oner: The first performance is a nearly three-minute unbroken, static camera shot from stage right, showing saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre.
  • Scatting: Louis Armstrong, the Trope Maker for scatting, indulges in it during his set.
  • Scenery Porn: The America's Cup yachting race was going on in Newport at the same time as the festival. There are several amazing shots of yachts sailing on the sun-dappled waters of the bay.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Cellist Nathan Gershman, rehearsing in a hotel room, lights up a smoke, and continues to play as a cloud of blue smoke envelops him.