Events

A Jazz Documentary on a Summer’s Day

The 1959 documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, screening on August 23 at the New York Public Library, is considered one of the first music festival films.

Still from <em>Jazz on a Summer's Day</em> (1959) (screenshot by the author via YouTube)
Still from Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959) (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

What’s the best way to spend a hot, late-summer day? If you said, “seeing outdoor performances by legendary jazz, rock, soul, and gospel musicians,” you are correct! You are also in luck, because on Wednesday, August 23, the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Stephen A. Schwarzman Building will host the next-best thing on a hot, late-summer day: an indoor (read: air-conditioned) screening of a documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which featured a legendary lineup including Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Anita O’Day, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, and Louis Armstrong.

Directed by the fashion photographer Bert Sterns with music direction by George Avakian, a jazz producer at Columbia Records, Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959) is considered one of the first music festival films. It was selected for this week’s screening by Edo Choi, a programmer at the Maysles Documentary Center, and will be shown in a 16mm print from the NYPL’s collection. It’s virtually dialogue-free, interspersing footage of the festival’s performers and audience with glimpses of the concurrent America’s Cup yacht race off the shore of Rhode Island. Its chiaroscuro lighting, saturated colors, and silhouetted dancers combine for an aesthetic that is classic Sterns, placing the viewer in the audience for performances by some of the greatest musicians of our time.


When: Wednesday, August 23, 6:30pm
Where: New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (476 Fifth Avenue, Midtown, Manhattan)

More info here.

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