Jazz on a Summer's Day

There may be musical greats like Monk, Dinah Washington, and Louis Armstrong on stage, but this classic concert film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is at least as interested in the audience as the musicians. First-time filmmaker Bert Stern, a former fashion photographer and magazine designer, steals amazingly intimate images of the languorous crowd, documenting every form of what poet Billy Collins called the “jazz face”—the pained grimace, the impassive head bob, the half-smile with head-shake—plus all the shifting body language as the music moves from bop to blues to gospel. Onstage, Stern keeps his gaze fixed tight on individual musician’s faces. The 1959 Jazz feels less like a motion picture than a series of still photographs come to life. Armstrong’s every breath and syllable is marked by pure imperfect genius, while Anita O’Day—junked out of her mind and decked out like a Rhode Island blue blood—knocks the shit out of “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Tea for Two.” (Screened as part of the ongoing Earshot Jazz Festival, see www.earshot.org for other events through Nov. 9.) (NR) MARK D. FEFER

Oct. 17-23, 7:30 p.m., 2008

 
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