Silo’s is a delightful little club in the heart of downtown Napa, California, within the greater wine country. The venue seats 125, and is tucked into the historic Napa Mill, adjacent to the Napa River Inn. On Sunday afternoon, July 14, it was the perfect setting for a tribute to Vince Guaraldi, performed by a polished combo led by jazz pianist — and long-ago Guaraldi student — Larry Vuckovich.
The event was sponsored by the Napa Valley Jazz Society, whose head poobah, Bill Hart, encouraged me to bring a stack of books, feeling certain that some of that afternoon’s patrons would appreciate the opportunity to purchase a copy. Bill also asked me to say “a few words” about Vince between sets, a proposal greeted with equal enthusiasm by Larry. I promised not to overstay my welcome; after all, everybody was present to hear the music.
My wife and I arrived about 45 minutes early, at 3:15 p.m. Bill showed us to our seats, at his table and favorably placed about 10 feet from the band. (That said, there aren’t any bad seats in the house, which is the epitome of intimate.)
We were surprised to discover a full bar, but not at all surprised to see that the cocktails were cheaper than single glasses of wine (all of which were high-end, Napa-area selections). I checked in with Larry and his lovely wife, Sanna; they were holed up in a back area separated only by a curtain, from the rest of the room. I also took advantage of the opportunity to chat with bassist Seward McCain; although he and I corresponded a lot and talked on the phone several years ago, while I worked on my book about Guaraldi, we’d never actually met. In person, he’s just as engaging as he was during our interviews.
Shortly before 4 p.m., Bill Hart took the microphone and made several announcements on behalf of the Napa Jazz Society: upcoming events and other bits of business. His colleague Richard Danne already was taking pictures with an impressive-looking camera, and several of his photos are sprinkled throughout this essay. Hart then introduced me and displayed a copy of my book (thanks, Bill!), which he presented as a gift to Vuckovich. After a round of applause, Bill concluded by formally introducing Larry, who discussed his own early years, starting with his arrival in San Francisco in 1951. He recalled seeing Guaraldi as a member of Cal Tjader’s band in 1957.
“Vince had driving rhythm and soulful playing,” Vuckovich said, “and he played Latin music with great authenticity.”