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Jazz on a Summer’s Day: Bringing Jazz Into the Sun

Tom Reney on the documentary film about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival

Bert Stern was “intrigued” and “amused” by the juxtaposition of “rich and poor,” as in rich Newport, poor jazz, when he decided to shoot a movie around the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958. But outside of a few scenes in which Thelonious Monk and others are heard against a backdrop of the America’s Cup trials in Newport harbor, there’s very little of a contrasting or ironic nature depicted in Jazz on a Summer’s Day. And even though it rained on the festival on Saturday night, the only storm cloud on the horizon in this sunny documentary is Chuck Berry, who enthralled the crowd and puzzled his accompanists who comprised the hastily assembled Newport Blues Band. One of the most indelible images I carry from the film is the bemused look on the faces of Jo Jones, Buck Clayton, and Jack Teagarden as they back him on this version of “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

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