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Review: Jazz on a Summer’s Day

The Newport Jazz Festival is America’s oldest jazz festival, having begun in 1954. All the luminaries of the genre have played there, and many of the best recordings of their music were recorded there. In 1958, celebrity photographer Bert Stern came to document it. And rather than being about the music, Jazz on a Summer’s Day is truly a document of a place and a time. From the aspect ratio to the style of shooting it is very much a film of its era. In addition, the audience for the festival is noticeably only somewhat integrated and mostly upper class. Not that the music isn’t present. It’s just that it’s the background for images of the town, the people, the sailboats, the privileged. It’s a fascinating documentary that was named to the National Film Registry in 1999, and its restoration was funded by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress for the film’s 60th Anniversary.