Vince would have turned 85 today, a milestone cited by jazz pianist Larry Vuckovich, during Sunday afternoon's Guaraldi tribute concert in Napa, California. I'll report on that event in a bit — still awaiting some photos — but I couldn't let this day pass without acknowledging it.
Nor, happily, could KMUW 89.1 in Wichita, Kansas. Station DJ Chris Heim's award-winning world music show, Global Village, is celebrating the birthdays of several music icons this week; Guaraldi will get his due on tonight's show (7 p.m. Kansas time). You can read a few advance details here. Guaraldi colleagues Cal Tjader and Bola Sete were honored last night (Tuesday), and that show can be enjoyed at the Global Village archives.
We can't help lamenting what might have been, when birthdays remind us of artists now departed: particularly those who were taken before their time. Think of all the music Guaraldi might have written, arranged and recorded, had he lived to the ripe old age currently enjoyed by some of the jazz world's revered icons. I'm reminded of the wry joke, often shared by musicians who lament their own limited output: "Goodness, when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for [insert a number] years."
And yet it's pointless to wonder about what might have been, when we can enjoy what was, and is. Mozart couldn't make recordings; we can only imagine how his music sounded, as actually performed by his own talented self. We're incredibly lucky to live in an age when our artists are preserved for all time. We can marvel as Fred Astaire dances in dozens of films. We can laugh as Jackie Gleason roars at his TV wife, in The Honeymooners. And whenever we crave a shot of Guaraldi, we need only listen to one of his albums. His output may have been modest, by some standards, but — to quote Spencer Tracy, in 1952's Pat and Mike — "what's there is cherce."
So grab your favorite Guaraldi album — LP, CD or digital medium of choice — and give it a special, concentrated listen today. He'd like that.
Oh, and of course the photo above is young Vince ... all of 1 year old.