Fashion and celebrity photographer Bert Stern’s classic concert documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival may be the greatest jazz concert film ever made. It’s also proof that jazz can thrive outside the concert hall and the smoky nightclub and sparkle in the sunlight.
Stern’s vivid color cinematography — and crisp editing by co-director Aram Avakian — lends a you-are-there sensation to the performance footage, and he gets you close enough to the musicians that you’ll feel shaded from the heat by Anita O’Day’s giant hat. He also mixes in footage from the seaside resort town’s America’s Cup yacht race, so you can practically feel the salty breezes as you settle in to enjoy the music.
Some of jazz’s all-time greats are on the bill, including Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, and Louis Armstrong, as well as rock pioneer Chuck Berry and (in a wee-hours performance that closes the show) gospel queen Mahalia Jackson.
Next Summer and Smoke