Jolly Cinema > 14:30

Jazz on a Summer’s Day

Bert Stern & Aram Avakian
Introduced by

Jonathan Rosenbaum and Ehsan Khoshbakht


Thursday 02/07/2015


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Bert Stern’s film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival (1959; his only film), codirected by Aram Avakian (who also served as editor), features Thelonious Monk, with Henry Grimes and Roy Haynes, Louis Armstrong with Trummy Young and Jack Teagarden, Buck Clayton, Jo Jones, Jimmy Giuffre with Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall (playing The Train and the River), the George Shearing Quintet, Sonny Stitt with Sal Salvador, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Gerry Mulligan with Art Farmer, the Chico Hamilton Quintet (with Eric Dolphy and Fred Katz), Armando Peraza, Eli’s Chosen Six (a Yale University student ensemble that includes Roswell Rudd), and many others, including such unexpected presences as Chuck Berry, Mahalia Jackson, and Big Maybelle. Shot in gorgeous color, it’s probably the best feature-length jazz concert movie ever made. Despite some distracting if attractive cutaways to boats in the opening sections, it eventually buckles down to an intense concentration on the music and the audience’s rapport with it as afternoon turns into evening. Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of The Lord’s Prayer and Anita O’Day’s up-tempo and partially scat version of Tea for Two are especially luminous highlights. Stern didn’t have much of an idea of what distinguishes mediocre from good or great jazz, so all three get equal amounts of his attention. But he’s very good at showing people listening, and digging what they’re listening to. Selected in 1999 for preservation by the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” – in this case, quite clearly, all three.

Jonathan Rosenbaum


Cast and Credits

Scen.: Albert D’Annibale, Arnold Perl. F.: Courtney Hesfela, Raymond Phelan, Bert Stern. M.: Aram Avakian. Int.: Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Gerry Mulligan, Dinah Washington, Chico Hamilton, Anita O’Day, George Shearing, Jimmy Giuffre, Chuck Berry, Jack Teagarden, Thelonious Monk. Prod.: Bert Stern per Raven Films · 35mm. Col.


Film Notes

An intimate, curious portrait of American ex-pat tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, shot between March and June 1967 in Amsterdam, where he eventually died in 1972. Though the title suggests outright praise, van der Keuken goes deeper into Webster’s sound and character by creating visual metaphors (a conversation about the blues cuts to a shot of a knife), relating anecdotes and giving a brief history of the man. Toying with the possibilities of the interplay between sound and image, the film treats Webster as one of the architects of tenor sax by visiting a saxophone factory, where industrial noise subsides allowing us to hear Webster’s luscious vibrato sound. Treated with warmth and respect, this former member of Duke Ellington’s band is seen doing various activities such as cooking, talking to his hospitable landlady, shooting pool and using his 8mm camera. When, later on, van der Keuken incorporates excerpts from what are presumably Webster’s films, jazz and cinema seem even more interwoven than first assumed.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

F.: Johan van der Keuken. M.: Ruud Bernard, Johan van der Keuken. Int.: Ben Webster, Don Byas, Cees Slings, Michiel de Ruyter, Peter Ympa. Prod.: Johan van der Keuken · DCP.


Film Notes

A spirited, riotous eight-minute duet between jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and Canada’s premier animator doodling and splashing an abstract extravaganza in order to keep up with him. This is the first National Film Board of Canada short I ever saw, and it remains my favorite.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Cast and Credits

T. alt.: A Phantasy in Colors. Mus.: Oscar Peterson. Prod.: The National Film Board of Canada · DCP. Col.