“Jazz on a Summer’s Day”
“Jazz on a Summer’s Day” is a series of tender tableaus about an America vibrant with nuanced character, curiosity and hope.
Bert Stern’s and Aram Avakian's film is set in and round the Newport Jazz Festival, the July 4th weekend of 1958, and Sunday, July 6th in particular.
Music sustains its montage, but its syncopation moves also by way of quiet and reflective pans. Scenes of Americas Cup yachts racing and the attendant, masts-climbing and masts-perching spectators segue with scenes of fans at the Festival. Fans contemplative. Fans judgmental as they smoke cigars. Fans in jerseys, fans in stripes, and one afternoon's fan striving with her camera between spectators and stage for that right angle and INSIGHT as she also manages the two-tone hat on her college-age, focused and seeking pretty head.
Everyone looks alive. Fun is in the air. An open-air roadster bears Trad Jazz enthusiasts blowing atop their seats--Eli's Chosen Six, from Yale University, including Roswell Rudd. Sincere creation is the guiding spirit. Bay water ripples and dancers step with drinks high on balconies and rooftops.
Monk and Trio of Roy Haynes and Henry Grimes play a daylight slot, introduced with reverential non-analysis by Willis Conover. Listeners bend their heads respectfully to the dancing dissonance. Chico Hamilton rehearses his Quintet through "Blue Sands" in the third-story of a stately downtown house. At night in Freebody Park before Newport’s crowd Eric Dolphy's flute and John Pisano's guitar and the mallets-reverberant groove (Yes, Charlie Watts, Chico was a monumental model) are a padding, provocative ritual like Vodun and Alap. Art Farmer solos twice in the Quartet (Henry Grimes again) led by an uplifted and then digging-into his heels Gerry Mulligan. Anita O'Day has two songs, resplendent in HER big black set off by white fringe and the rhythms and innuendos she intones ("Sweet Georgia Brown" in many ways and means) through the horn of her white teeth. Dinah Washington's "All Of Me" is glorious and couples' delight.
Chuck Berry has a turn of duck-walking Rock ’n Blues before appreciative Newport Blues All Stars (Jo Jones, Jack Teagarden, Rudy Rutherford, ... ) and more dancers in their T-shirts blue jeans bob, twirl, and shake IT up.
Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson are the movie’s last two main performers. Grand professionals, knowing their effects, they’re spiritual beyond calculation, too. Louis with Jack Teagarden sings of that rascal they’re glad the butcher did cut down, and Mahalia of New Orleans’ Black Pearl, a near generation younger than Louis in her nurturing by that city most American in its multi-racial mix, brings the rows of rapt and admiring more to stillness as her voice digs deep and they feel some God or Gods swell.
“Jazz on a Summer’s Day” was shot by a mere three cameras, Bert Stern’s and Courtney Hafela's and Roy Phelean's. "How did they get ALL those shots?" Maryse and I wondered. "We didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what we couldn't do. We just wanted to make a movie." Aram Avakian edited the footage like a painter hop-skipping with his palette and delighted by how the discoveries gel. Energies and sympathies are marvelous like those bellwether interstices of Summer 1958—Rock ’n’ Roll and Beat and emergent, unrelenting Revolutions pressing edges of the mainstream toward coalescence. The whole of musicians and crowd—Black, White, Brown, Jewish, Latin, Irish, WASP, ...—feels like one variegated piece. “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” is reminder of the America that once was and still can be.
The otherworldly vitality, empathy, sensuality and individual intelligence so lovingly rendered by Bert, Aram, Courtney and Roy was just 64 short years ago.
Don Paul, first completed 8:37 a.m., 1/20/22
ALEXANDRA AVAKIAN'S site.
TERRY SOUTHERN site with links to ARAM AVAKIAN. http://www.terrysouthern.com/aavakian.html
QUOTES from "Jazz on a Summer's Day".
NATE CHINEN on CHUCK BERRY and NEWPORT 1958.
LINEUPS and PROGRAMS for NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL 1958 and many other events at this useful site. http://www.rirocks.net/Band%20Articles/Newport%20Jazz%20Festival%201958.htm
Think of lilting Philadelphia Soul ... #3 with a Bullet--like an upward arrow and a rose-- 1974--still pushing, like Curtis advised, still reaching, as Idris recalled ... Soul to greet and assuage stresses of 2020 into 2022.
Think of mandalas like baubles of spirals green and gold and red, spirals dancing behind and with spirals of white and black, in these Think of a voice both tender and percipient unto cutting in her melodies. A voice that reaches to make passion become understanding and to make understanding become compassion. Think of a voice that cares for “the unhoused.”
Cole Williams plays all the instruments except trumpet on the new ‘Lyric Video’ (VEVO and YouTube”) of her song “Dear Love.”
The love in her song is both sharply personal (born of intimate relationship) and mystic universal (like a Sufi’s seeking devotion and embrace). The video’s mandalas of spiraling holiday green-gold-and-red and also white and black shift and float, revolve and gyre “Oh Love / it's you / it's me “/ it's us / ..." And now the background is like a dartboard's complex diamonds, green and black and gold, issuing shot-round molecules of red, flocking outward to be born. "Balm--Baum--Balm / Balm--Baum--Balm / ... "
“My heart’s desire / I want you forever / this I will defend / My soul's on fire / "
And the bauble mandalas spiral separately on individual bases like HipHop's and Paintballs's splatter. 2, then 3, then 4, 3 again, and by closing of the song's Bridge
4 and 5 of the wheels in motion in linear symmetry. "I want you to know / I'll never let you go / Oh, Love / it's you / it's me / it's us ..."
Not every good thing / always comes to an end /... / Not every good thing / always comes to an end / My soul's desire / Not every good thing / comes to an end / comes to an end / Don't always come to an end."
The mix of the track and its video blend and accent. They blend and accent like the grooves and backings beyond words in mellifluous Philadelphia International Records (Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff) and in late Beethoven blend and accent BEAUTIFULLY.
The steadily involving bass-line. The panning of trumpet’s answering response. The twining of melodies and harmonies through keyboard and voice.
The simplicity and subtlety, too, of ‘Illustration’ by Scott Williams and ‘Animation’ by Muffin Bernstein (the profile of a Cole-like woman African-Jamaican-Brooklyn in her coloring and aspirations--she have that striped headband, those striped earrings and red round-rimmed sunglasses with Congo-dark lenses and that red lipstick) steadfast beside both the shifting mandalas themselves baublelke and the kaleidoscopic bulls-eye with its explosive but benign outpouring of shot-round molecules endless. The profile is of a woman who might “be trouble” and have trouble because her will and her cares--for love, for "the unhoused", the "unjustly incarcerated"--are strong. Illustration and animation play with the lyrics and voice so that ALL, together, now, instill fresh meanings and recurrent pleasures.
This one is also a classic.
Don Paul, first completed 10:00 a.m. Jan. 21, 2022