Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jazz on a Summer's Day: Newport 1958

In living color, Aram Avakian and Bert Stern's beautifully shot Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960) documents the music and people swirling around the 1958 Newport (Rhode Island) Jazz Festival. It features, often in close-up, a range of heavy-hitters including Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Mahalia Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry and George Shearing, plus a cross-section of the eclectic crowd registering the vibe in measures of pure joy. I can just see this projected onto a wall at a party or other social gathering, with or without the audio. Way ahead of its time in terms of integrated beatitude. Indeed, compared to so many places in the here and now, it's still ahead of our time.

As an aside, seeing George Shearing (1919-2011) perform here, I couldn't help but wonder if he was an early inspiration for Peter Sellers' (1925-1980) creation of the Dr. Strangelove persona in the filming of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) -- seriously. The difference is, Shearing was a talented real life musician who happened to be blind while the fictional Dr. Strangelove character was a complete lunatic who wore shades for added emphasis.

Today's Rune: Journey.


Charles Gramlich said...

there seems like there was such a positive excitement in the air in those days. I wonder what happened.

Johnny Yen said...

What an amazing line-up!

Mahalia Jackson performed at my grade school here in Chicago when I was a kid. I enjoyed the performance, but it wasn't until years later that I realized how lucky I'd been.