Thursday, March 26, 2015

A message from 1967

It tantalized me for years.

The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive is a marvelous resource: an endeavor that has preserved great chunks of Northern California's television history, whether it originated on film or broadcast video, from the dawn of television to 2005. Best of all, much of the archive's contents have been digitized and made available for online viewing by all, at no cost.


You can check out a nifty video introduction of the archive here.

The archive's deposits are a fascinating window into the past, affording the sort of "You're really there" experience that simply doesn't come from the oh-so-phony "re-enactments" beloved by many of today's cable and satellite channels.

Jazz fans will find tantalizing items, albeit only after some digging. George Lewis and his Ragtime Jazz Band come to life during a 1953 performance at the Hangover Club. Dave Brubeck discusses his former mentor, Darius Milhaud, in a two-part documentary first aired on KQED in 1965. In a 1974 KPIX Eyewitness News report, San Francisco jazz critic Ralph Gleason — also a founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine — reflects on the death and legacy of Duke Ellington.

The archive's collection is sizable, and growing all the time: far faster than its dedicated staff can tabulate, digitize and post the contents. And therein resided the source of my frustration.

A search on Guaraldi, during the research phase of my book, yielded three entries: all of them "waiting to be processed." I was lucky; thanks to relationships cultivated with the many individuals I interviewed, I was able to obtain copies of two of these three items. 

The first, 1965's Bay of Gold, was an hour-length documentary about the San Francisco Bay; it was directed and produced by Lee Mendelson, who later that same year made history with Guaraldi when A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on television. As the two men already had become friends and creative partners, Mendelson hired Guaraldi to write and perform the score for Bay of Gold, and you'll hear themes and improvisations that never appeared elsewhere (along with a few themes that Guaraldi did later recycle). 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mass appeal: Chapter 1

Guaraldi fans know that this year marks the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, first broadcast December 9, 1965: the show that introduced most of the world to "Linus and Lucy" and the other catchy themes that Dr. Funk wrote and performed for that television special. No doubt this occasion will be marked by plenty of publicity, and likely a special event or two; I'll certainly try to keep up with them in this blog.

The hoopla surrounding that first Peanuts TV special, however, threatens to overshadow another Guaraldi milestone also celebrating its golden anniversary this year: the Jazz Mass that he wrote and debuted at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, on May 21, 1965.

Although Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Christmas (and subsequent Peanuts TV specials) had a massive impact on the American public's music taste — unquestionably turning more people onto jazz than any other single artist — his Grace Cathedral Mass is more significant historically, for a variety of reasons.

As I explain in my Guaraldi bio, in part:

The entire concept was completely radical. No American church had ever employed jazz in such a setting [during an actual worship service]. The Rev. Charles Gompertz [who "hired" Guaraldi for this assignment] knew of only one earlier precedent. Geoffrey Beaumont, a London priest, had composed a Jazz Mass in 1956: a work scored for a cantor and a jazz quartet. Beaumont and his composition made the news in 1957, but the vicar's performance of this work always took place after his regular services at St. George's, in Camberwell.

Guaraldi's Mass was an impressive success, and not just in San Francisco.



The subsequent publicity wasn't merely a localized wave; it was a tsunami that swept across the entire country. The Grace Cathedral Mass was granted a page-length article in Time magazine; the single accompanying photo showed Guaraldi and his trio members, Tom Beeson and Lee Charlton, above a caption that read "Praising the Lord with blues and bossa nova."

The Grace Cathedral staff couldn't move quickly enough, in an attempt to replicate the event. No less a jazz icon than Duke Ellington was hired to perform in the cathedral later that same summer, on Sept. 16.

But Guaraldi got there first. He even beat Ellington.

That's huge.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Yankee Songbird

My wife and I spent an enjoyable few hours Wednesday afternoon, at San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club. The occasion was a lunchtime presentation by Medea Isphording Bern, author of the just-released photo memoir, San Francisco Jazz. (I discussed this book at length in a previous post.) Medea included us on her guest list, and I must say that the club prepares an impressive lunch spread. Her talk covered the background and creation of her book, accompanied by nifty PowerPoint highlights of the photographs within.


Although we arrived with the expectation of enjoying Medea's presentation, the event delivered an unexpected bonus. We were seated next to veteran jazz chanteuse Pat Yankee, 87 years young, who has mischievous eyes and an impressive memory for details stretching back more than half a century. (That's Pat on the cover of Medea's book, by the way, in an award-winning 1962 publicity shot by photographer Emilie Romaine.)

Medea, who knows of my interest in All Things Guaraldi, had orchestrated the seating arrangement for a reason; this became obvious the moment we were introduced to Pat.

"I knew Vince quite well," she said, "and he accompanied me once."

Do tell, I encouraged her.

"This was when I was working at Goman's Gay '90s, which would have been from about 1952 to '56," she continued, settling into the story.

[Goman's Gay '90s operated from 1941 to 1967, initially at 555 Pacific Avenue, in the old Barbary Coast. In 1956, the club moved to 345 Broadway, where it remained until it closed.]


"Everybody knew everybody back then. Enrico Banducci — he owned the hungry i, you know — he had a television show at the time. This was when the Keanes had all their paintings up in the little gallery room. Vince had his piano there, and he'd be playing when people came out of the big room."

[That would be Margaret and Walter Keane, who became famous in the late 1950s and '60s for her wildly popular paintings of wide-eyed, often gloomy-faced children; they're the subjects of Tim Burton's recent film Big Eyes.]

"Enrico used this space for his television show. He'd interview people, before they performed something; he was quite a character. So he said, 'Come on over, and be on my television show.' So I did. And Vince played for me.

"Now, it wasn't Vince's thing to play something like 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find,' but he did, and he was just wonderful.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Childhood Fantasy

Researchers rely on the kindness of friends and strangers, who occasionally point us in the direction of something — a key piece of information, a fascinating anecdote — that we wouldn't otherwise have found.


In that way, I'm grateful to a good friend for calling my attention to a delightful online profile of Dogpaw Carillo, the sort of cheerful, colorful figure who typifies San Francisco's still-quite-lively counter-culture vibe. Dogpaw — and that's how he prefers to be called — is the star of this engaging and informative article by Viktorija Rinkevičiūtė, which she wrote during her post-graduate stint as a master's student in media, journalism and globalization, while at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She subsequently returned to Lithuania, where she maintains an engaging blog and looks back fondly on the time she spent in Northern California.

As you'll discover, reading Viktorija's charming piece, Dogpaw spent part of his childhood living directly adjacent to the Treat Avenue headquarters of Fantasy Records. He grew up in a house at 841 Treat; Fantasy was next door, at 855 Treat.

(A quick sidebar: We have become conditioned to assume — thanks in part to a Vince Guaraldi composition — that Fantasy's most famous early home was on Treat Street. But Guaraldi's tune isn't the only source; this slight error has been promulgated by scores of musicians who refer to the good ol' days, when "Fantasy was on Treat Street." Many of them are quoted saying as much in my book. The lapse is understandable; "Treat Street" rolls more swiftly off the tongue, and the rhyme is hard to resist. But it's a mistake nonetheless: Although San Francisco does possess a tiny Treat Street, it's nowhere near the Mission District locale where Fantasy Records made its home ... on Treat Avenue.)

Aside from being absorbed by Dogpaw's childhood memories, I was drawn to the several times he mentioned Guaraldi. Viktorija had no reason to pursue these references to Dr. Funk, since her story focused more generally on Dogpaw, then and now. But I sensed that he'd have more to say about Guaraldi, and so I contacted Viktorija. She kindly shared Dogpaw's contact information, and she also sent along several additional photos that she hadn't used in her article.

I found Dogpaw just as amiable — just as eager to chat about his Treat Avenue days — as I would have expected. And he did, indeed, have a great deal more to share about Guaraldi and Fantasy.

(I've tried to avoid too much overlap with the information in Viktorija's article, although some basic details are necessary.)


Dogpaw examines the exterior of 855 Treat Avenue, the
once-upon-a-time home of Fantasy Records, and now
headquarters of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
(Photo by 
Viktorija Rinkevičiūtė)
Dogpaw grew up in the house at 841 Treat, and remained there through his teens; his adolescence coincided perfectly with the 1960s, when Fantasy blossomed from a modest jazz label that went "13-1/2 years without a hit" — at which point Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" came along — to the more ambitious operation that expanded into rock 'n' roll and most famously signed the band that became Creedence Clearwater Revival.

"Fantasy was literally right over the fence," Dogpaw recalls. "They shared the property with a lumberyard; this guy would come in maybe once in a blue moon, and chop and saw some wood, and then take off. His buzz-saw was right next to the studio! But they must've worked it out, because he never made noise when Max [Weiss] wanted to record something.

"At first, I thought the place next door might be a radio station, because you'd see instruments being loaded off vehicles, and going in, and later coming back out again, and all these radio-looking people. That was the vibe, so we kids knew it had something to do with music. Initially, we all thought that every neighborhood had one of these places, like every neighborhood had a playground or a library. This was just normal to us, having a studio on the block.

"But of course it wasn't normal. Growing up on Treat was very, very special."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Current Events

Photo courtesy the Associated Press
A few Guaraldi-themed tidbits in the news...

The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, the famed priest, author and activist who made quite a splash with his 1965 book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, died February 27, at the impressive age of 91.

Boyd was a hard-charging activist who never worried about whether his socio-political image would clash with his religious training; indeed, he cheerfully employed the latter to further all manner of causes in the realms of civil rights, gender equality and much more.

Early in his career, in the late 1950s and early '60s, he was a popular coffeehouse fixture who reached out to the era's poets and beatniks, earning the media label "the espresso priest." This eventually brought him to San Francisco, where his path crossed Guaraldi's on two notable occasions: first and most famously on May 21, 1965, when Boyd delivered the core sermon during the debut of Guaraldi's Jazz Mass at Grace Cathedral. Alas, Boyd's stirring oratory wasn't included on the album — Vince Guaraldi at Grace Cathedral — that Fantasy subsequently released.

That said, the original Fantasy LP, released in September 1965, was packaged with a printed copy of Boyd's sermon. (And here's a funny story: I wasn't aware of that until just a few days ago, when somebody mentioned that detail in passing. Curiosity prompted me to pull out my old LP, where — lo and behold — I did indeed find the single-fold "booklet." I'd never known it was there! All the many, many times I played that record, back in the pre-CD days, but the printed sermon never revealed itself by sliding out with the disc. And since I bought the LP used, probably at some point in the 1970s, it no longer had the wrapper which likely bore a sticker mentioning the inclusion of that document, and so I didn't know to look for it!)

Their second collaboration took place in September 1966, during the first week of what would become Boyd's month-long run at the hungry i. Activist comedian Dick Gregory was the headliner; Boyd shared the bill, "performing" his prayers/poems to musical accompaniment. His regular partner, guitarist Charlie Byrd, had a conflicting gig at El Matador the first week; Guaraldi is known to have stepped in for at least one night, and possibly for that entire week.

Boyd was famous enough to have earned lengthy obituaries in newspapers and media outlets throughout the country, but the best I've seen (by far) is this one, from the Episcopal News Service. It even mentions Guaraldi, if only in passing.

Boyd was a titan. My wife and I were fortunate to see him perform in person, in August 2010, when filmmakers Toby Gleason and Andrew Thomas screened their just-completed documentary, The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi, at the second annual Sausalito Film Festival. The film was followed by Boyd, who — accompanied by a piano trio — re-created the beatnik-era style of jazz-inflected prayer and poetry that would have characterized that memorable month at the hungry i. As I wrote in my book's epilogue:

Audience members could close their eyes, lean back, let the experience wash over them, and imagine the intervening years melting away: imagine being transported back to 1966, in spirit if not body, to witness the birth of a new sort of prayerful protest movement.

Boyd clearly was moved by Gleason and Thomas' film: enough so that he made a point of introducing Thomas to Michael Battle, who had begun work on an authorized biography of Boyd, which was published in 2011 as Black Battle, White Knight. In that book, Battle reprints an e-mail that Boyd wrote, shortly after viewing The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi for the first time. Excerpting the relevant portion of that note:

I realize the incredible impact of the Jazz Mass on my consciousness. More to the point, I can see its impact on Vince Guaraldi. ... For both of us, I think, we'd found a freshness, an innocence and simplicity, that would mark us indelibly. I look back at the event, collaborating with Vince, as a kind of magical moment. Two strangers met, exchanged a brief encounter on a great stage, and the gods seemed to smile or, at least, show friendliness.

After that, we went our own ways.

As it happens, Boyd has become Thomas' most recent project. The filmmaker is collaborating with author/scholar Mark Thompson on a documentary-in-progress titled Disturber of the Peace: The Many Lives of Malcolm Boyd. Additional information can be found at the film's web site.

We need more impassioned agitators like Boyd, but — as the saying goes — we'll not see his particular like again, any time soon.


******

On a happier (concert) note...

Our Canadian neighbors will have the opportunity to enjoy a Guaraldi program at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 13, when pianist Duncan Cooper and his trio — John Beach, bass; and Chris Lingard, drums — present "A Tribute to Vince Guaraldi" at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery in Belleville, Ontario. The event apparently will be more than music, as Cooper also promises to discuss Guaraldi's life and career. Admission appears to be free; check here for details.

Down here in the States, veteran jazz pianist Larry Vuckovich, Guaraldi's one and only formal student (way back in the day!), will honor his mentor with a couple of concerts in the near future: a treat for those of us in California.




First up is "Larry Vuckovich's Vince Guaraldi Tribute Ensemble," performing at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. The set list will be familiar to those who've enjoyed Vuckovich's recent Guaraldi tributes, described in this earlier post. The band personnel have changed a bit: bassist Seward McCain has been replaced by Jeff Chambers, and drummer Leon Joyce Jr. is sitting in for Akira Tana. McCain's absence is unfortunate, since he also remains a direct link to Guaraldi, having been part of Dr. Funk's final band, back in the 1970s.

Ticket information and other details can be found here.


Later in the spring and down in Southern California, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute is presenting an ambitious, four-day tribute to jazz impresario Howard Rumsey, "Music for Lighthousekeeping." Rumsey, 97 years young, is best known for forming the ensemble that became known as the Lighthouse All-Stars, the house band at the eponymous Hermosa Beach restaurant/nightclub. The festival, taking place May 21-24 at Los Angeles' Sheraton Gateway hotel, will feature 26 concerts, rare films and special presentations.

The schedule is frankly stunning, in terms of the talent assembled for this long weekend, and must be seen to be believed; take a gander at this program.

Guaraldi fans will want to pay particular attention to "Concert 23," detailed at left, which features Vuckovich and his band.

But that's not the only Guaraldi element. Four short cinema events are scheduled throughout the weekend, all boasting "rare films from the L.A. Jazz Institute Archive." The May 23 screening, dubbed Mambo Las Vegas, makes a point of mentioning Guaraldi. I've no idea what those archive materials might be, although I'm trying to find out (and will share whatever I learn in this space).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A little of this, a little of that ... strikes again

Another round of short Guaraldiana bits...

Director Tim Burton's new film, Big Eyes, is a stylized biographical drama about the tempestuous relationship between Margaret and Walter Keane (played by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz), the former best known for her pop-art paintings of small, wide-eyed children, which were quite the rage in the late 1950s and early '60s. The story's "hook" is the fact that Walter initially took credit for his wife's work: a ghastly artistic tussle that eventually climaxed in a famous courtroom trial ... all of which you can see in the film.


Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) visits the hungry i jazz club, and is horrified to discover that
her husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), is taking credit for her displayed paintings.
For our purposes here, though, Burton and production designer Rick Heinrichs are to be commended for re-creating Margaret's artistic origins with such authenticity. She was "discovered" in the 1950s at San Francisco's hungry i nightclub, where owner Enrico Banducci was approached by Walter, to use the venue as a gallery showcase for his new bride's work ... although patrons initially believed that they were Walter's paintings.

The film spends some time in a re-created hungry i, where at one point the Cal Tjader combo can be seen and heard performing in the background (actors portraying the musicians, of course). And, off to one side, for perhaps a heartbeat on camera: As Walter enters the club, he passes a marquee that promises the Vince Guaraldi Trio as the next attraction.

(And, once the film is available on home video, I promise to replace the still above with the frame-grab in question.)

Definitely a cool name-check!


*****

Further on the subject of San Francisco jazz clubs, I've exchanged several e-mails with a fellow fan named Edward, who remembers seeing Guaraldi perform at the Blackhawk — way back in the day — while being in the cramped, chicken wire "underage cage" that separated teens from the adults in the club proper, who were drinking alcohol while enjoying the show.


The Blackhawk's "underage cage" (photo courtesy of the San Francisco History Center)
"It was so abominably smokey, I could barely see him," Edward recalls, "let alone the issue of jostling for position at the screen. The cage was small: maybe about the size of a normal tract home bathroom, say 5-by-8 feet. Depending on how many other people were in there, it could be tight, and visibility was poor. I remember not staying long, because I hate cigarette smoke, especially in industrial-strength concentrations.

"The Blackhawk was on a corner, and to get into the cage, one had to walk up the side street and enter via an obscure door. The cage was above the club's floor level: a sort of balcony along the side of the club's long dimension.

"I wasn't underage; I would have been 22 or 23, and I likely learned about Vince from the Black Orpheus album. My date and I were in the cage because I had a tight student budget and didn't want to pay the club's cover charge!"


*****

Back in early December, I was contacted by an editor at Cuepoint, the "music hub" of Medium, a nifty new Internet site dedicated to long-form, magazine-style writing. With the approaching annual re-broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas, they asked if I'd be willing to supply an excerpt from my Guaraldi bio, focusing on the sequence of events that led to Dr. Funk being selected to write the music for that debut Peanuts TV special. As an added bonus, they were even willing to pay me for the effort.

Who could refuse? I agreed immediately, even though December is always an insanely busy month for me ... and, for obvious reasons, they wanted the finished piece very quickly. They offered to cherry-pick the contents of Chapter 10, but I wasn't having any of that. (I do my own editing, thank you!) The abridgment actually proved a bit more challenging that I had expected, because I wanted to come in under 3,000 words ... and it's a long chapter. But it was an interesting exercise, and I finished the work in five days; the draft then had to be approved by my publisher, McFarland, which maintains control over such things. They okayed it as written, so I passed it along to the folks at Medium, and it was published on December 16.

Those who have my book won't find anything new, of course, but I was delighted by the story layout, which included a vintage photo of director/producer Lee Mendelson, during the 1963 filming of his first documentary, A Man Named Mays. That photo was new to me, although the various photos of Guaraldi himself were familiar.

During the next several weeks, I received numerous e-mail notices that the story was "tracking" quite well: In the first 30 days, it generated 11,532 "views" (3,040 on December 18 alone), 2,288 "reads" and 132 recommendations. It has tapered off since then, although there was an interesting "viewing spike" on January 20-22. (Ah, social media ... such a mystery!) At any rate, Medium seems to feel these are worthy stats, so I rate the experience successful on both sides.


*****

And, finally...


Jazz pianist/singer Diana Krall has been making the media rounds to support her new album, Wallflower, and her corresponding concert tour. On February 4, she took over the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy Facebook page to handle questions from fans. She wound up fielding 17 questions, on topics ranging from who cooks the best breakfast in their house (husband Elvis Costello, as it turns out), to the second-best thing she's good at, after singing. (You can visit the site to find the answer to that one.)

But I'm particularly delighted by Question 6, and her reply:

Is the late, great Vince Guaraldi an influence on your musical style?

Absolutely. Still is.

I'd love to know who posed that question!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A century of San Francisco

By name, Arcadia Publishing may not ring a bell, but you've likely seen their books; you may even own a few. They're best known for the uniformly sized (6.5-by-9 inches) softcover "Images of America" series that showcases towns and cities throughout the United States. Each book is designed as a historical document recorded mostly via pictures: in essence, a lengthy photo essay. Chapters open with brief text introductions, mostly to set the stage for a fascinating collection of vintage photographs, all accompanied by lengthy captions.

I've done well by Arcadia, in my personal life; there's a volume devoted to the Southern California region where I grew up (Palos Verdes Estates), and two that cover the Northern California university city where I've lived since obtaining my college degree (Davis, California: 1910s-1940s and Davis: Radical Changes, Deep Constants).

But the series isn't devoted solely to municipalities per se; many titles focus on sports, lifestyle and other topics that are equally fascinating to observe, through the lens of vintage photographers ... everything from architecture to amusement parks, natural disasters (floods and earthquakes) to natural wonders (rivers and mountain ranges).

And music. Including, for our purposes, jazz.

Arcadia's backlist features a respectable assortment of jazz-themed titles, from Detroit: Ragtime and the Jazz Age to New York City Jazz. I'm here to praise the newest arrival in that sub-category: San Francisco Jazz, which just hit bookstores on January 5.

You absolutely must add this to your library.

Author Medea Isphording Bern has gifted us with a loving tribute to the Northern California jazz scene, starting with the upstart prologue around the turn of the 20th century — ragtime and the bawdy Barbary Coast — that essentially vanished in the wake of Prohibition. The bulk of the book is devoted to jazz's post-WWII resurgence, and the scores of clubs — and musicians — that turned San Francisco into a Mecca in the 1950s and early '60s.

The photos are captivating and illuminating, at times amusing and even poignant. They're all wonderful shots, each one telling a story, conveying a mood, or capturing a performer at a particularly electrifying moment. At times, I could almost hear music echoing from the pages.

Bern divides her study into eight roughly chronological chapters that chart regions, artists and venues: from "In the Beginning" and "The Fillmore Years" to "The Turk Murphy Era" and "Dave Brubeck and the Birth of West Coast Cool." Another chapter focuses exclusively on "Jazz Women of San Francisco," which gives the long under-appreciated ladies a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

The 185 photos come from a variety of sources: the Library of Congress, the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation, Stanford University's Archive of Recorded Sound, various private collections and professional photographers such as Harley Bruce, Brian McMillen and Jerry Stoll.

Photo courtesy of Marianne Kent
Additional ephemera is sprinkled among the photographs: newspaper display ads, concert and club tickets, LP labels.

It's hard to select favorites, because every photograph rewards close scrutiny. I laughed out loud at the matching zebra-striped shirts worn by the Pole Cats septet, in a 1950 shot; I'm enchanted by the image of Eubie Blake at the piano in Earthquake McGoon's, with Turk Murphy visible in the audience; you've gotta love the expression on the venerable Arthur Fiedler's face, as jazz chanteuse Marianne Kent teaches him to dance the twist at Bimbo's 365; and one can't help sighing over Harley Bruce's forlorn photo of the bland Tenderloin District parking lot that occupies the corner once home to the Blackhawk.

I know you're wondering, so yes, Guaraldi is mentioned a few times within these 128 pages ... but, alas, not pictured. That shouldn't be viewed as a sign of disrespect; Guaraldi is in phenomenal company, in terms of the many, many jazz icons who aren't shown. It would have been impossible to include them all, and also beside the point; Bern has deftly depicted the evolution of a music genre in a rapidly expanding city, and a "laundry list" approach to the photographs would have been distracting, even counter-productive.

That said, it does seem unfair that the Brubeck/West Coast Cool chapter is the book's shortest, at a mere six pages, and with a scant four photographs. But, then, I'm obviously biased...

Seriously, though, the book does have one significant failing, which absolutely isn't Bern's fault. Arcadia apparently doesn't believe in the index; their books never have one. That's quite irritating. Want to quickly find every photo of, say, George Murphy "Pops" Foster? Can't be done. You have to look through the entire book, page by page. I can't fathom why Arcadia behaves thusly; it wouldn't be that difficult to include an index, which probably would fill no more than two or three additional pages.

Anyway...

Photo courtesy ot Brian McMillen
Bern has resided in the San Francisco Bay Area for a quarter-century, during which time she has lived and breathed jazz, blues, funk, gospel and alternative music in venues as varied as The Independent and Davies Symphony Hall. Her work has appeared in print and online, and current projects include a collection of essays about growing up in her home town of Venice, Florida.

She also served on the board for several years at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, the wonderfully eclectic performance venue in nearby Miramar, where she had the ear of owner Pete Douglas as a sort of unofficial advisor. No surprise, then, that her book's final chapter is devoted to the Bach, and enriched by Brian McMillen's marvelous performance photos of icons such as Art Blakey, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson and several more of the many, many jazz cats who graced the venue's intimate, laid-back setting. Douglas died only a few months ago — as I discussed, in a previous post — and the Bach's fate still remains uncertain.

What is certain, however, is the enjoyment you'll get from each and every page in this book. It's clearly a labor of love, and a thoroughly engaging romp through a century of "jass" at Baghdad-by-the-Bay.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Santana connection

Carlos Santana is known to have jammed with Guaraldi during at least one public concert: on October 7, 1972, during a benefit at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California. Santana acknowledges this on his own website, without giving any other specifics about the gig. And while the entire event apparently was broadcast by a local radio station, only a few short fragments have survived, as I discussed in a previous post.

I've been reminded of this Santana/Guaraldi connection by the recent arrival of the former's autobiography: The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light, published on November 4, 2014. Curiosity prompted a perusal of this volume, to see whether Santana chose to discuss Guaraldi to any degree. The answer is yes, and while the citations are brief, they're certainly respectful.


The first occurs as Santana looks back on the summer of 1963, when he's "almost 16":


Carlos Santana, circa the mid-1960s
San Francisco was like that jukebox [at the Tic Tock Drive In, at Third and King, where Santana "began his career as a dishwasher"]. Actually, San Francisco was a jukebox. The Mission was full of nightclubs, and I had friends there who had stereos. And San Francisco in general had lots of clubs and radio stations playing a variety of styles. KSOL — "Kay-Soul" — was one of the city's black stations. That's where Sly Stone started as a DJ. "Hey, you groovy cats..." He had his own thing that early. I heard a wild jazz organ on KSOL late at night — someone named Chris Colombo doing "Summertime" and just killing it. KSOL introduced me to Wes Montgomery, Bola Sete, Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith. They played Vince Guaraldi a lot. ... Basically, the city was a cornucopia of music — more than I had ever expected. I started hearing about clubs I would later try to sneak into — like the Jazz Workshop, all the way down Van Ness and over on Broadway, near the North Beach area. Just a few doors down was El Matador, where I would hear Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi for the first time, and later Gábor Szabó. El Matador was where I heard the amazing Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete for the first and only time.

The next mention comes a bit later, in late 1965:

That fall, I met Michael Carabello for the first time. He was a friend of Yvonne's [Christian] and would have been at Mission High except that his baseball skills got him into San Francisco Polytechnic. He remained close with his friends in the Mission, where he lived. Carabello had gotten hooked on music when he played congas in these informal jam sessions at Aquatic Park, very close to North Beach, and had even sat in once with Vince Guaraldi.

And, finally, a few more years along, in May 1969:

We weren't the only band getting it together [at San Mateo's Pacific Recording Studio] at that time — Vince Guaraldi was rehearsing there, too. At one point, he came over to our room and said, "I got to tell you, man, I was listening to your music, and I can tell the direction you guys are going — you guys are going to be big, man. Big." That was an amazing confirmation of what we felt. I used to see Guaraldi a lot, because we played in a lot of the same benefits. I also saw him play at an outdoor show at Stern Grove with his trio, and Bola Sete and John Handy were on the bill, too. It was my first love-in, and everyone was smoking weed, but the music was amazing. It felt like Guaraldi stepping in and giving his approval helped turn things around.

That Stern Grove show likely would have been one of Guaraldi's many appearances at the annual summer "Jazz in Stern Grove Musical Festival," probably in 1966 or '68 (since both those shows also featured John Handy's combo).

Guaraldi clearly was one of the smaller ships passing in the wake of Santana's blossoming career, and yet the latter's acknowledgment obviously is sincere, even grateful. Guaraldi rarely gets any sort of mention in jazz biographies or overviews, so it's double nice to see this shout-out by an icon from an entirely different portion of the music world.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Jerry Granelli Christmas

As promised, longtime jazz drummer Jerry Granelli gladdened the hearts of many, many Canadian fans by touring his Charlie Brown Christmas show a bit more ambitiously this year. He and his trio — Simon Fisk, bass; and Chris Gestrin, piano — began their holiday showcase with a performance November 27 at Central United Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; and concluded with a gig December 16 at the Arden Theater in St. Albert, Alberta. 



By all accounts, a great time was had by all, as clearly indicated by these two reviews:

The St. Albert Gazette, December 13

The Edmonton Journal, December 14

A point of clarification, though, which I noticed in the coverage of both his 2014 concerts and those in 2013. A few writers who breezed too rapidly through their press notes identify Granelli as "the last surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio," which will come as a surprise to all the other surviving members of various Guaraldi combos. It's probably not even safe to say that Granelli is the only surviving member of the trio that recorded the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack LP, since the identities of that album's credited sidemen remain, ah, a point of discussion.

So let's just say that Granelli worked with Guaraldi for a couple of years in the early 1960s, most often joined by bassist Fred Marshall; and that Granelli is, indeed, the only surviving member of that particular trio.

Anyway...

You'll also want to take a look at this short December 4 news piece on Granelli done by CTV Ottawa...

...along with these two concert videos — with the trio performing "Linus and Lucy" and "Skating" — which were recorded during their December 7 performance at the Halifax Jazz Festival.

Sharp-eyed readers will note, on the latter site, a reference to the Granelli Trio's entire Halifax Jazz Festival performance having been recorded, for the December 20 episode of the CBC radio show The East Coast Music Hour, with David Myles. Unfortunately, the link to that program has been "geo-locked" and works only for folks who reside in Canada; attempts to click in from elsewhere — say, the United States — get re-directed to a default East Coast Music Hour page, with no indication of the Granelli material.

Savvy Internet users likely can work around that little issue, and the effort is worthwhile ... although perhaps not as much as avid fans might hope. The hour-long program features both concert excerpts and plenty of conversation between Granelli and Myles. While the latter is engaging and informative, I suspect plenty of listeners would have preferred more music and less chat. Still, we get to hear complete versions of "Linus and Lucy," "Christmas Time Is Here," "Skating," "Christmas Is Coming" and "O Tannenbaum." You'll note that Granelli departs from the "standard" Guaraldi arrangements, in some cases quite significantly; that's the nature of jazz, and — in my view, anyway — that makes these interpretations that much more interesting, and fun.

I'd like to think that, one day, CBC will broadcast the entire concert. I'd also like to think that Granelli might bring his tour to the States in 2015, so let's keep our fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A little of this, a little of that

Various scraps of information have been settling into my files for awhile now: none worthy of blog entries by themselves. But they're all interesting, if slight, and the (digital) stack has grown tall enough, that it seems appropriate to gather them into this single post.

To cases, then:


The first bit of news warrants a fist-bump for my good friend and radio colleague, Bill Buchanan, who has solved The Mystery Of The Ages: the identity of the "mystery track" on the second disc of the 2011 CD release, An Afternoon with the Vince Guaraldi Quartet. Contrary to what the liner notes claim, it most definitely is not "Autumn Leaves" ... even though Sound Hound and various other web sources now insist as much, having propagated the error (an issue I covered at length in this previous post). Bill and I discussed this situation at length, when I brought the song to his attention earlier this year; unknown to me, he kept chewing at it ... convinced that he recognized the melody from somewhere. Well, he was right; he did recognize it, and the penny finally dropped a few weeks ago.

The song is "Sunny Goodge Street," which made a splash in October 1965 on Fairytale, the second album from British singer Donovan. The tune took a few years to become a pop hit, and then was covered by the likes of Judy Collins and Tom Northcott. The arrangement performed by Donovan is the closest to Guaraldi's take, which you can hear by comparing Vince's version with Donovan's, thanks to this YouTube clip.

So, mystery solved. I'm forever indebted to Bill, and of course will take this opportunity to give his Davisville radio show another plug. Indeed, Bill and I just yesterday recorded our annual discussion of upcoming holiday movies: a show that should go live in about another week. Do give us a listen.