By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1958, photographer Bert Stein filmed segments of The Newport Jazz Festival, some footage behind the scenes, along with some coverage of the 1958 America’s Cup Yacht Races. The resulting feature, Jazz On A Summer’s Day, premiered at the 1959 Venice Film Festival and has been considered, since then, one of the best concert films ever made. The film has recently undergone a 4K restoration and Kino Lorber’s “KinoMarquee” label has re-released the film in virtual cinemas. It is a delightful taste of musical history captured for enjoyment that probably has never looked or sounded better.
Well, at least that is a safe assumption on my part, as I had never previously viewed the film in any format. What strikes me the most about this restoration is how gloriously vivid the colors appear. It definitely has a near-technicolor quality, but appears more natural than artificial. The restoration work allows Bert Stein’s gorgeously simple cinematography to be appreciated and enjoyed by fresh eyes. The sound of the music does have its limitations. However, when one considers how old the film is, limited improvements should come at no surprise.
As for the concert performances are concerned, some of the artists’ names speak for themselves. The more famous performers include Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk. Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington and Mahalia Jackson. However, even the performances by some of the lesser-known musicians hold up well amongst the legends. It is a concert that jazz enthusiasts and audiophiles are sure to enjoy.
And the documentary itself is a must-see for cinephiles interested in some of the most historically and culturally significant footage ever commited to film. As a moderate jazz enthusiast, cinephile, and audiophile, I found much enjoyment and felt much awe beholding this lovely time capsule of art. It is a film I must highly recommend.