Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)

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Released 16-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-A Summer's Day With Bert Stern
Biographies-Crew
Notes-Newport 1958
Production Notes
Trailer-Malcolm; What's Up Tiger Lily?
DVD Credits
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 81:24 (Case: 84)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Bert Stern
Studio
Distributor
Galaxy Attractions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jimmy Guiffre
Thelonious Monk
Sonny Stitt
Anita O'Day
George Shearing
Dinah Washington
Big Maybelle
Chuck Berry
Chico Hamilton
Louis Armstrong
Mahalia Jackson
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In 1958, a Jazz Festival was held in Newport, Rhode Island. Performing were some of the most famous names in jazz. Also present was Bert Stern, a fashion photographer, indeed a very well-known fashion photographer at the time, probably most well-known for his work for Vogue and his photos of Marilyn Monroe. He had been inspired by a friend to photograph the festival. Instead, he decided to make a movie based around the festival.

    From what I can pick up from the half hour documentary that is a special feature on this disc, Bert Stern had no idea of how to make a movie. He came up with his own script but things did not go according to plan. This may have been a disappointment as far as his movie-making aspirations went but thankfully the result is something rather special. The footage and recordings that he made ended up basically as a documentary of this festival, capturing images and performances of some great 50s style jazz. There is also some early rock and roll with a performance by Chuck Berry.

    My understanding is that very little footage is available of this early period, making this a very unique collection. The footage was shot with 35mm cameras and the audio was recorded on magnetic tape. The style of the photography is very much what you would expect if you gave a still photographer a movie camera and it gives a certain style to the whole film. Most of the footage is of the performers but there are inserts of the festival, the audience and of the preliminary trails for the America's Cup at Newport (back when they used to be the sole custodians). My only complaint about the direction is the overriding of one of the performances with the announcement of the starting of the races - I would have preferred the uninterrupted performance.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering the age of this footage, it is in amazing condition. There are marks and some scratches but amazingly few considering.

    The back cover states that this film is presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio. I don't have any information at hand that contradicts this.

    The foreground is quite sharp, particularly on relatively stationary objects or people. The sharpness drops off in the background and when things move or the camera is panned. There is an artefact present on this disc that I am a little reluctant to put a name to. It is very similar to interlacing but doesn't appear to be due to that. When the camera pans, objects leave a trail behind them. Objects that move within the frame also show this trail. This can be clearly seen in the lady's jumper at 18:25. This jumper has a series of vertical lines that blur and overlap each other as she moves across the frame. Even stranger are some objects that show a ghost in front of their path - single step and watch the head of the man at 39:00. A clear image of where his head will be in the next frame appears before he gets there. Another piece of the puzzle can be seen at 9:10, with a woman wearing a white dress with black polka dots. The dots are very blurred while her face is reasonably sharp. All of this combines to vary the sharpness from good to terrible depending upon the scene.

    Taking into account the age and the lighting conditions this movie would have been shot under, the shadow detail of this transfer is very good. There is some low level noise but again this is to be expected.

    The colour saturation is good but there is some colour bleed. The woman in the white hat with the red band at 9:10 shows this colour bleed.

     The scene cuts on this disc have a problem. I think it relates to the MPEG compression but it may be that it is a combination of compression and source material. Every scene change takes up at least four frames and in some cases up to eight frames. A couple of frames before the cut, the image starts to show some blocking, then the two frames either side of the change show a combination of the last frame and the next, and then we see some blocking that disappears over the next couple of frames. This can be seen on most scenes with a clear example at 8:34 where we cut from a tent to a group of people. Other than this, there are no other types of MPEG artefacts visible. There is some wobble in the image but I would think that this is inherent in the source material. As mentioned before, the source material is in very good condition for its age.

    This is a single layered disc, containing the 81 minutes of the feature along with a 29 minute documentary. This might be a little too much for a single layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A magnetic recording taken at a live performance in 1958 is not going to be perfect, but it is quite good despite this. I also think a live performance caught on stage has something extra over a studio recording.

    The Dolby Digital mix is a little strange on this disc. We start the film with what seems to be the same track coming out of the left front, the left rear, the right front and the right rear with little coming from the centre. This seems to float the music into the centre of the room. A couple of performances later, the balance seems to shift to the left, placing the sound somewhere between the left front and left rear. The image then shifts to the right, then back to the centre then to the left again. It does this several times. I have no idea what the original recording sounds like so I can only describe the outcome, not comment on the whys and wherefores of this mix.

    The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the only audio track on this disc for the main feature.

    The dialogue quality is good. Both the voice-over and the performances are easy to understand.

    Audio sync drifts a little during some of the performances though this is undoubtedly the source material. There were five movie cameras operating and the audio was recorded on magnetic tape. I doubt that during the live performances that there would have been an opportunity to use clapper boards or other similar sync aids to synch up the sound. It is mentioned in the production notes that synching up the performances took a long time. Taking this into account, they have done a pretty amazing job of audio sync and unless you are sensitive to this you probably won't notice it.

    The music is by Jimmy Guiffre, Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day, Chuck Berry and Louis Armstrong to mention a few. If 50s jazz is your cup of tea then this is the disc for you.

   As mentioned previously, the surrounds are in constant use, but the effect is upset by the balance problems.

    The sub does get a look in but there is no deep bass. The recording equipment of the time was not the best at capturing deep bass.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

Menu

    The menus start with a simple animation and then have a series of video clip inserts from the main feature. They are presented at 1.33:1 and have a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The video clip loop runs for 2:19.

Documentary: A Summers Day

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this runs for 29:19. This feature consists of a series of still shots and footage from the main feature with a voice-over from Bert Stern. The quality is similar to the main feature. This was quite interesting and reveals a bit about the evolution of this project. There are four 'interactive' inserts. A small windmill appears on the lower left of the screen - if you press Enter on the remote you are taken to the insert. The first is about the photographs that Bert Stern took for the movie Lolita and is a series of stills with a voice-over for the first part with scrolling text below the picture for the second. This runs for 41 seconds. The second is some photos from Bert Stern's time in the army in the media unit and runs for 26 seconds and also has a voice-over. The third is about Hamilton and runs for 17 seconds and the last is about Avarkian and runs for 47 seconds. These are also accessible via a menu.

Newport 1958

    Three pages of text taken from the Boston Herald in February 1960 and written by George Wein, the festival producer.

Production Notes

    Five pages of text information about the production of the film. It mentions that over 180,000 feet of footage was shot. This was cut to 8000 feet, giving the current run time of 81:24.

Bert Stern Profile

    Four pages of text about this famous photographer.

Reflection on the stars

    A second entry for each performer can be found in the chapter selection menu. These lead to a static page with a quote from or about the performer.

Trailer: Malcolm

    Presented at 1.85:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the trailer runs for 2:10.

Trailer: What's Up Tiger Lily

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the trailer runs for 1:35.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Unfortunately I could not find a reliable comparison source for the Region 1 version of this DVD. There is mention of a complete festival play list on the Region 1 version, but no details of any major differences. Lacking a true comparison, I am currently unable to give an unequivocal recommendation.

Summary

    There are some real gems on this disc. Some of the performances really are magic, and even if the sound is not up to a digital remaster of a later performance, with this disc you get to see the performer perform live.

    The video has some problems.

    The audio is clear but the balance is out.

    The extras are interesting if somewhat egotistical.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, January 03, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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