Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A summer with Vince

Vinyl fans are in for a treat; Craft recently announced new editions of two Guaraldi Peanuts-themed compilation albums.

I'm particularly pleased, as I provided fresh liner notes for both albums. It'll be fun to see my name in a larger font size!

I'll turn the rest of this post over to Craft's press announcement:


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Craft Recordings announces two vinyl reissues to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts comic strip, which debuted in seven newspapers across the country on October 2, 1950. 

The first is a limited-edition picture disc of Peanuts Greatest Hits, featuring the faces of Snoopy and Woodstock; it will be available on July 24. The second release, coming August 21, is the first-ever vinyl pressing of Peanuts Portraits. Both titles, which are available for pre-order, feature the enduring music of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Peanuts Portraits, in addition, includes several recordings from Guaraldi and pianist George Winston which have never been available on vinyl. 

Limited to 2,500 individually numbered units, the collectible Peanuts Greatest Hits picture disc offers music for all seasons from the animated TV specials, including the instantly recognizable “Linus And Lucy,” the classic “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and yuletide favorite, “Christmas Time Is Here.” Side A features a cheerful-looking Snoopy, while his avian sidekick, Woodstock -- who made his first official appearance in the Peanuts comic strip 50 years ago this June -- graces Side B. The collection also includes some of Guaraldi’s earliest Peanuts compositions, such as “Baseball Theme,” which originally appeared on his 1964 LP Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown: the soundtrack for an unreleased TV special about the comic strip’s anti-hero. Another highlight is “Little Birdie,” written for the 1973 special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and featuring a rare vocal by Guaraldi.

On vinyl for the very first time is Peanuts Portraits, which collects the vivid musical cues that Guaraldi wrote for the cast of Peanuts characters. With his evocative compositions, the artist added new dimensions to beloved regulars such as Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Sally and (of course!) Charlie Brown. In addition to nine songs performed by Guaraldi, the album includes two classic Peanuts tunes recorded in the 1990s by pianist George Winston. Eight of the selections on Peanuts Portraits -- including Winston’s renditions of “Linus And Lucy” and “Masked Marvel,” along with Guaraldi’s alternate takes of tracks such as “Frieda (With the Naturally Curly Hair)” and “Charlie’s Blues” -— will make their vinyl debut.

While Peanuts Portraits will be released across all major music retailers on black vinyl, fans also can find an exclusive edition of the album via Vinyl Me, Please. Limited to 1,000 copies, the LP will be pressed on 180-gram red vinyl.

(This actually is the second picture vinyl edition of Peanuts Greatest Hits; the first, featuring the images of Charlie Brown and Lucy, debuted in September 2015.)

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Drummer Jerry Granelli joined the Guaraldi Trio on February 21, 1963, for a three-night gig at the Berry Patch, in Sacramento, California. He and bassist Fred Marshall became Guaraldi's third "classic trio," working together during the post-"Cast Your Fate to the Wind" rush that turned Dr. Funk into a Northern California jazz star. The trio blossomed into a quartet with the arrival of Bola Sete, and they became a multi-month mainstay at Trois Couleur in the spring of 1964.

Granelli and Marshall went their separate ways after that gig finally concluded on May 31, although the former reunited with Guaraldi briefly for a few tracks on The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi, and some cues for the big-screen film A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

Granelli then spent the bulk of his career alongside jazz/blues pianist, singer and composer Mose Allison.

More recently, Granelli has been fronting Charlie Brown Christmas tribute concerts each December at a handful of Canadian venues, mostly close to his Nova Scotia home. No surprise, then, that he finally decided to honor both of the icons with whom he spent so many happy years, with a tribute album titled The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi & Mose Allison.

Guaraldi is recognized with three tracks, to Allison's seven (which is appropriate, considering that Granelli was at the latter's side for much, much longer). Granelli is joined by pianist Jamie Saft and bassist Bradley Christopher Jones.

The album opens with an oddly ethereal handling of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," the initial 60 seconds of which sound like all three musicians are still warming up. But they eventually settle into a lovely reading of Guaraldi's Grammy Award-winning hit, which is highlighted by Saft's sensitive keyboard work.

Their work on "Christmas Time Is Here" is even sweeter, with Granelli tastefully understated while both Saft and Jones contribute lyrical solos. The Guaraldi highlight, though, is an extended run at "Star Song," which Granelli should know quite well (having recorded it, alongside Vince, on three different albums). Granelli sets up a tasty, bossa nova-flavored atmosphere, while Saft and Jones trade the melody back and forth, comping the other during each hand-off.

Granelli's trio maintains a gentle touch on all three of these Guaraldi tunes; the same cannot be said for their Allison covers, which are far more outré. Guaraldi fans therefore are advised to tread carefully; give the album a listen on Spotify first, before jumping to purchase.

(And, just in passing, this has got to be one of the most unattractive album covers I've ever seen!)

Friday, May 22, 2020

A bit of keyboard magic with the Charlatans

Bear with me; setting the stage for this one will take a bit.

The Charlatans — not to be confused with the popular West Midlands rock band of the same name, founded in 1988 and still going strong in the UK — was a Northern California folk rock and psychedelic rock band that formed in 1964. Despite a run that lasted only five years and was plagued by personnel changes, bad decisions, bad record deals and just plain bad luck, the group had an outsized influence on the burgeoning San Francisco/Haight-Ashbury music scene.

The Charlatans, circa early 1967: from left, George Hunter, Richard Olsen,
Mike Wilhelm, Dan Hicks and Mike Ferguson
Indeed, the Charlatans also strongly influenced the developing 1960s look, starting with their affected late Victorian/Wild West clothing: a style that was embraced by the emerging anti-establishment youth movement. The band also kick-started the era’s poster art, thanks to a playbill created by members Mike Ferguson and George Hunter, to publicize their summer 1965 gig at Virginia City’s Red Dog Saloon, across the state border in Nevada. Rock historians credit that advertisement as the first true psychedelic concert poster, which quickly influenced the artwork of Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean, Wes Wilson, and Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley.

(It could be argued that the Charlatans also deserve recognition as the first true acid rock band, given that everybody took LSD prior to their first Red Dog performance. But the band’s sound wasn’t characteristic of what became true acid rock, so that claim is debatable.)

Ben Marks’ complete history of the band — “Hippies, Guns and LSD: The San Francisco Rock Band That Was Too Wild for the Sixties,” a thoroughly enjoyable read — was published July 19, 2017, and can be found here. The essay is laden with photos, and I’m indebted to Marks for some of the information that follows.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The De Maupassant connection

On July 16, 1964, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason reported that Guaraldi and Bola Sete were scheduled to record some short programs — known as “fills” — for National Educational Television (NET) member stations; San Francisco’s KQED Channel 9 was one such station. (NET existed from 1952 to October 4, 1970, at which point it was replaced by the PBS network we know today.)

Guy de Maupassant
As with PBS, NET programming aired without the advertising spots found on commercial networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC. The aforementioned short spots therefore were used when a series — often imported from the UK — ran only 54 minutes or so, which required the NET network to “fill” the remaining time with a short subject of some sort.

On January 27, 1965, Gleason reported that “a series of solo ‘fills’ of five and six minutes, which Guaraldi did for Educational TV, now is being shown on KQED before dramas.”

Despite the fact that numerous copies of these fills must’ve circulated among the country’s many NET stations, none has surfaced. (I can’t help feeling that tapes are Out There somewhere, in some station’s storage room, or some retired line producer’s attic.) These fills therefore remain high on the list of Guaraldi’s most-wanted video appearances.

Indeed, until just a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even figured out how many existed, and how they were used. That said, I’d seen tantalizing clues over the years, although their significance was difficult to judge. Scattered among the results of generic Internet searches on “Vince Guaraldi,” I’d see occasional newspaper TV listings at odd hours of the evening, which read something like this:

Channel 7, 10:55, “Vince Guaraldi: Twilight of Youth.”

(Since I didn’t learn that “Twilight of Youth” was an unrecorded Guaraldi composition until several years after my biography was published, I didn’t immediately suspect it might be one of the aforementioned fills; it sounded more like a short interview segment.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

An Ear-ful of Poppycock

My renewed deep dive into Guaraldi's career resulted in a fresh look at his activities in the early 1970s, when — from the autumn of 1971, through the late winter of '72 — he had a semi-regular gig at a Palo Alto night spot dubbed In Your Ear. This is the venue where — most famously (for our purposes) — a young George Winston played intermission piano in between Guaraldi's sets, and was bold enough to introduce himself to Dr. Funk, probably on October 24, 1971. And we all know where Winston's admiration eventually led.

I was reminded, while re-reading some of the notes and performance dates, that I'd learned very little about this club, during my bio's research phase in 2009 and '10. Aside from the fact that it occupied the building at 135 University Avenue, in Palo Alto — and that Guaraldi often could be found there on Tuesday evenings, for five or six months — newspapers and the Internet had yielded very little. Heck, I've never even been able to find a photo of the place, inside or outside. Whazzup with that?

Clearly, it was time for renewed exploration.

The effort proved very fruitful.

In Your Ear wasn't the first music club at 135 University; that honor belongs to The Poppycock, which opened its doors in April 1967. A sign of things to come was visible in the classified "employment opportunities" section of Stanford University's newspaper, the Stanford Daily, beginning April 12:

Beertenders, waitresses, Olde English Fish Cooks. Full and part time. Start Immediately. Poppycock. 135 University Ave.

(One wonders how many Stanford students qualified as "Olde English Fish Cooks.)

Guests musicians were eclectic and comparatively modest during the initial few months; the stage hosted a diverse assortment that included The Flowers, Doc Watson, The Mind's Eye, Lightning Hopkins and Schlomo Carlsbach (a folksinging rabbi). But all manner of San Francisco Bay Area outfits soon found their way to The Poppycock: some little more than short-lived garage bands, others ... well, a whole lot more famous. Stanford's radio station KZSU claims credit for a live broadcast from the Poppycock, which gave the first-ever airplay to an obscure little group dubbed Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In March 1968, politically active students hosted a "petition party" for Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, to help fund his effort to become the Democratic nominee for U.S. President.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

More bits and bobs

Continuing our engaging journey through various newspaper archives...

Beloved San Francisco-area journalist Herb Caen's April 17, 1964, column -- appearing in the Santa Maria Times, among other outlets -- offered this update on producer Lee Mendelson's in-the-works TV special, A Boy Named Charlie Brown:

"It will have Vince Guaraldi playing the piano for Schroeder, [and] Cal Tjader beating the vibes as Snoopy."

Alas, we know that if Tjader was part of the special's original one-hour edit, his participation wound up on the cutting-room floor, when Mendelson trimmed it down to 30 minutes. And the little documentary still didn't sell.


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Jazz columnist Richard Hadlock published a terrific (and lengthy) interview with Guaraldi in the San Francisco Examiner, on March 29, 1964. When asked about his influences, Guaraldi replied:

"I listen to everybody. There were really only three main departure points in jazz piano: James P. Johnson, Earl Hines and Bud Powell. They're all great, but Powell had the biggest influence on me. I also like the awkward grace of Thelonious Monk very much. And then there are Art Tatum and Duke Ellington: each in a class by himself, over and above the rest. I hear Chopin in Tatum, and the classical composer in Duke."

When asked if he got tired of playing "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" over and over and over again, Guaraldi insisted otherwise.

"Not at all. For one thing, we keep changing the way we do it. Basically, it's only a skeleton to improvise on, to play new chord uses on. Oh, when you do it six times a night, it can get to be a bore, but I'm not really tired of the tune. I play better on my own compositions anyway. The main thing is the feel you get when you're really communicating, and 'Cast Your Fate to the Wind' helps to reach people. The concert we did at the Museum of Art recently with Bola Sete, that had the happy feel to it."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bits and bobs

A five-year deep dive into a new jazz-related project — details of which can be found here — minimized my focus on All Things Guaraldi, so I've been playing catch-up during the past few weeks.


The first order of business was a fresh look at newspapers.com, an ever-more-useful resource site for those fond of serious research. Gaining access to so much archived information was invaluable during the research phase of my Guaraldi biography, although I was vexed by the absence of two key newspapers: the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner. Happily, the latter was among the many newspapers added at some point during the past decade (which is how much time has passed, since I last visited the site). The Examiner proved every bit as useful as I'd hoped, and all sorts of fresh and expanded entries will appear in my Guaraldi timeline, during the next few weeks.

(Vexingly, the Chronicle still has no comprehensive online archive: merely a partial one, with "selected articles" from 1985 to present. I can't imagine what they're waiting for, and I dearly wish they'd get on the ball!)

Meanwhile, have fun with these isolated tidbits:


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On September 28, 1963, the San Rafael Independent-Journal headlined a story "Pianist Is Wanted For Throwing Drink At Woman." The incident took place at the Trident on August 30, where Guaraldi and his trio were nearing the conclusion of a three-month residency. He'd long developed a reputation for impatience with patrons who made too much noise while he and the trio performed, and things got out of hand that day. Three women were drinking at the bar, undoubtedly having a good time, and Guaraldi used the microphone to tell them to quiet down. Whether they did remains a matter of uncertainty, but — according to "victim" Dee Taylor — when the set concluded "Guaraldi appeared at the bar, cursed the girls and tossed a drink in [Taylor's] face. [He also] tossed a carte blanche machine at one of her friends."

Guaraldi was scheduled to appear before Marin Municipal Court's Judge Joseph G. Wilson on September 27, on charges of battery and disturbing the peace. Rather foolishly, he failed to show.

Hence the news brief's headline and opening sentence, with all their embarrassing publicity: "A warrant of arrest was issued yesterday for Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi."

Well.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The sincerest form of flattery: 2019 update

This post originally appeared back in December 2012, and was updated in 2016. Although it deserves a fresh update this year — thanks to two new entries — adding to the original post wouldn't call attention to the enhanced information; there's also no reason newer readers would know anything about it. Ergo, a "repeat performance" with additional material. Enjoy!

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While writing the final chapter of my book on Guaraldi, when it came time to briefly mention the unusual phenomenon of contemporary musicians who’ve chosen to cover the entire Charlie Brown Christmas score, I paused long enough to wonder whether this has happened very often.

Granted, jazz is a genre that encourages such behavior; consider the number of folks who’ve put their own stamp on, say, Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” But covering an entire album?Surely, that must be unusual.

And, indeed, it is ... but, by a curious coincidence, one of my other favorite jazz albums — also a TV score — has garnered the same attention: Henry Mancini’s iconic soundtrack for Peter Gunn. The series ran for three seasons, from September 1958 through September 1961, and Mancini actually produced two albums: The Music from Peter Gunn (1958) and More Music from Peter Gunn (1959).

To say that Mancini’s swingin’ themes made a splash would be an understatement. The first album reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop LP Chart, and suddenly everybody wanted a piece of the action. All sorts of folks covered the groovin' title theme, with Ray Anthony's version spending 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between January 5 and April 27, 1959; it peaked at No. 8 the week of March 2.

Ted Nash, Maxwell Davis and Pete Candoli had released the first cover album, titled simply Peter Gunn, the year before; Nash, Pete and Conte Candoli, calling themselves the Soundstage All Stars, followed with More Peter Gunn in 1959. Drummer Shelly Manne & His Men also released two albums in 1959: Play Peter Gunn and Son of Gunn. The Joe Wilder Quartet joined the fun in 1959, with Jazz from Peter Gunn; Ray Ellis and his Orchestra followed in 1960, with The Best of Peter Gunn. Manne & His Men returned to the well in 1967, with the outré Jazz Gunn (a little too far out for my taste, but that's just one vote).

(If I’ve missed any others, please let me know.)

It’s simple, really: When listeners really, truly love a particular score, they can’t get enough of it. Leonard Bernstein’s music for West Side Story is another good example; I couldn’t begin to tabulate all the jazz cover versions that album generated.

We therefore shouldn’t be surprised that Guaraldi’s beloved Christmas album has received the same treatment, and increasingly more often as time has passed.

But are they any good?

In most cases, yes, and well worth your time and money. And since this is the holiday season, it seems an appropriate time to discuss them all.

But let’s make it a bit more fun, and score the contestants according to my own whimsical parameters. Points therefore will be awarded for...

1) Covering all four of Guaraldi’s original tunes: “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Christmas Is Coming,” “Skating” and “Linus and Lucy” (5 points each, for a total of 20);

2) Covering all five of the traditional Christmas songs that Guaraldi arranged and included on the album: “O Tannenbaum,” “What Child Is This, (aka Greensleeves)” “My Little Drum (aka The Little Drummer Boy),” “The Christmas Song” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” (5 points each, for a total of 25);

3) Plus covering Beethoven’s “Für Elise” (25 point bonus);

4) And presenting them in the same album sequence (50 point bonus).

Fresh jazz covers of additional Christmas songs are nice, but count neither toward nor against the total score.

Finally, 10 points will be subtracted for unimaginatively calling the album A Charlie Brown Christmas, because that’s confusing. At the very least, the artist(s) in question should give their work some sort of original title.

Please note, though: The final tally applies solely to how faithful the cover elements are, and in no way reflects the musicality present. Jim Martinez’s album may score low in the “perfect cover” department, but it’s one of my favorites on this list.

Onward!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Stocking stuffers

We’ve an embarrassment of holiday-themed riches this month, starting with not just one, but two terrific big band covers of the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Richmond, Virginia, is blessed with a full-blown swing band fronted by bassist/arranger Andrew Randazzo, which performs as the R4nd4zzo Big Band. The 15-piece unit boasts four trumpets, three trombones, four reeds and a rhythm section of keyboards (Jacob Ungerleider), guitar (Alan Parker), bass (Randazzo) and drums (DJ Harrison). The ensemble presented a swinging tribute to Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas to a packed house at Richmond’s Vagabond on December 18, 2017; the performance was recorded and released as a Bandcamp digital album a month later.

Can’t imagine why it took so long for me to find it; this album definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Aside from his inventive arrangements, Randazzo also has a cheeky sense of humor; the classic holiday tunes and Guaraldi originals have been given fresh titles that occasionally require a bit of thought … such as “SK8N,” which features unison brass on the familiar melody, following Randazzo’s tasty solo bass introduction. The pace picks up, with Toby Whitaker and JC Kuhl delivering cool solos on (respectively) bass trombone and baritone sax.

The set actually kicks off with “Tannenbomb,” which begins in gentle Guaraldi fashion; the full band then sets a mid-tempo pace for sleek solos on piano and brass, against Randazzo’s bass comping. The ensemble returns to the melody and then concludes with a double-time burst of speed. The mid-tempo “Drum Closet” (“My Little Drum”) is dominated by groovy rolling percussion, the melody taken by brass against Parker’s guitar comping. Parker similarly dominates the melody in a thoughtful cover of “Black Friday” (“Christmas Time Is Here”), and he also gets plenty of exposure — notably during a lengthy bridge solo — in “Whose Baby Is This!?”

A few arrangements may challenge Guaraldi purists, starting with an unusually contemplative, mid-tempo reading of “Linus, Single Again,” dominated by Ungerleider’s sweet piano solo and some cool rhythm work. But the stand-out, for exploratory ambition, is “Xmas on a Thursday,” a deconstructed handling of “Christmas Is Coming,” dominated by funky bass and percussion, a barely recognized melody in a minor key, and an acid rock electric guitar solo that soars into outer space … after which the track concludes with a traditional solo piano reading of “Fur Elise.” Far out, man!

The set finishes with a gentle reading of “Chestnuts,” featuring guest vocalist Roger Carroll; Randazzo’s acoustic bass solo at the bridge is particularly lush, backed by unison brass comping. The horns takes over the melody when Carroll returns to croon the iconic tune to a close. At which point, a very good time clearly has been had by all.

(One minor issue: I rather doubt Peanuts Worldwide, Fantasy/Concord and all others concerned would be pleased by this set’s digital album cover!)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Eddie Duran: Guitar maestro

My fondest personal memory of jazz guitarist Eddie Duran came early in the summer of 2012. The Gods smiled upon me; I was able to hire him, drummer Colin Bailey, bassist Dean Reilly and pianist Jim Martinez for a performance at that year’s Beaglefest (an annual convention for fans of Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts).

Eddie Duran, "in the moment" during a private concert
June 30, 2012. (The arm at upper left belongs to
drummer Colin Bailey.)
It was a reunion of Vince Guaraldi’s former sidemen, from his “classic” early trios: Eddie and Dean, at Vince’s side for a lengthy gig at San Francisco’s hungry i nightclub, and while recording his first two Fantasy Records albums; and Colin, who with bassist Monty Budwig put Vince on the map with the release of 1962’s Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and its breakout single, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Jim, the (comparatively) young pianist who stood in for Vince that evening, likely couldn’t believe his good fortune. The appreciative audience definitely couldn’t believe it, as this quartet — never before having performed together, or even rehearsed — breezily powered through a couple hours of Guaraldi jazz classics. (Including, of course, plenty of Peanuts melodies.)

The three Guaraldi veterans were the epitome of graciousness. They joined us earlier in the evening for a banquet dinner, sitting at different tables in order to interact with as many attendees as possible. Once they started playing, a few hours later, they were wholly in the groove. As one would expect, distinct personalities emerged; Colin and Dean, all smiles, were quick with an occasional quip between — and sometimes even during — numbers. But Eddie was all business. his gaze was wholly absorbed by his guitar, particularly during his positively magical solos.

Several years earlier, he’d been one of my favorite interview subjects, while assembling the wealth of material for my Guaraldi biography. Eddie had a terrific memory for detail, and he vividly painted “word picture” descriptions of the hungry i environment, and the hilariously Spartan, spit-and-bailing-wire simplicity of the Fantasy recording sessions, circa mid-1950s. “[The first album] was recorded in the garage of a building south of Market. They didn’t do any extensive preparation for sound-proofing; it was just a bare garage … although they did spread some carpets on the floor.”

Eddie spun wonderful anecdotes about club gigs with Vince, several of which were much too coarse to have made it into my book. (I rapidly came to the conclusion that jazz musicians tell the best stories … and also the filthiest!) Eddie enjoyed a remarkably prolific career, with and beyond Vince, as this San Francisco Chronicle article recounts briefly. (Additional details, although still woefully incomplete, can be found at Wikipedia.)

Eddie was lucky enough to make a successful career out of doing what he loved, and he maintained a performance schedule right up to the very end. We lost him November 22, 94 years young. I like to think this was merely a change of venue, and that — somewhere, somehow — he has been reunited with Vince, and they’re both enjoying the most amazing jam sessions with all manner of other jazz cats.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Jolly Guaraldi Holiday 2019

My goodness.

It feels like these annual productions are multiplying exponentially.

Which means that it's time once again for this annual round-up of the many Guaraldi-themed concerts taking place between now and the end of the year, most of which (of course!) are tied in to his music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Numerous bands and individuals across the United States —- and elsewhere! -- clearly have turned this into a cottage industry. Goodness, some of them even have expanded into Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed concerts, featuring music from those respective Peanuts TV specials. High-fives to all of them, for keeping Guaraldi's musical torch aloft! I traced the history and growth of this delightful tradition back in 2012, with a modest schedule that now seems quaint. This year's post will serve as a clearinghouse for any and all  2019 concerts that come to my attention. 

As always, I'll add to this schedule as new information becomes available, so you'll want to check back frequently.




As has become a tradition, the most ambitious tour comes from Concord recording artist David Benoit, who once again is taking his holiday show on the road. Many of the dates will find Benoit once again accompanied by vocalist Sara Gazarek. Their schedule kicks off November 29 in Rockport Massachusetts; and concludes December 22 in San Juan Capistrano, California, with stops along the way in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington and Florida. We caught Benoit's performance in 2011 and 2015, and I can report that it's a great show. It's also tremendously sweet, since he and his team work with a children's choir that is local to each stop. Check his web site for details.

Our Canadian neighbors once again can enjoy the return of the season's most historic booking. Drummer Jerry Granelli, who worked as a member of Guaraldi's trio in the 1960s, will headline Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas with his own trio: Simon Fisk (bass) and Chris Gestrin (piano). He began this annual celebration with a few shows in 2013, and the results were quite popular (no surprise there). You can catch him this year on Thursday, November 28, at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse (details); Saturday, November 30, at Calgary's Bella Concert Hall (details); Thursday, December 5, at Ottawa's Dominion-Chalmers United Church (details); Wednesday and Thursday, December 11-12, at Burnaby, BC's James Cowan Theatre (details); and Sunday, December 15, at Halifax's Spatz Theatre (details).