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Jazz on a summer’s day

Bert Stern’s record of The 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is the first, and still one of the best, documentaries to use the music festival as subject matter, and it remains a definitive cinematic legacy of American music heritage. The setting is Newport, scene of the America’s Cup Sailing trials, with the bemused yachting types looking on as Rhode Island is transformed into a joyful mass of jazz energy, from blues to be bop.

The film captures some intriguing sub plots, like the iconoclastic bassist Charles Mingus defiantly running a renegade festival on a neighbouring hillside, outstanding performances by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Thelonius Monk, and a nerve tingling rendition of Amazing Grace by the sublime gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

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