But it's fun to wonder about such stuff, even when there's probably no way to verify the hypothesis.
First, the facts: On August 7, 1959, a club/theater dubbed Caffe Court opened at 642 High Street in Palo Alto, California. The Vince Guaraldi trio was on hand for the gala opening celebration, backing vocalist Valerie Knight. This gig ran through August 16, and likely would have continued longer, but on August 17 Guaraldi left for Las Vegas, to join Woody Herman's "small combo" for a week. Immediately thereafter, Guaraldi spent most of the next eight months down in Southern California, as a member of the Lighthouse All-Stars.
He returned to the greater Bay Area in the spring of 1960, and on May 18 began what would become a regular gig at the same Palo Alto venue, which in the meanwhile had adopted the name by which it remains best known today: Outside at the Inside. The Guaraldi Trio remained the house band for roughly a year, through the early spring of 1961.
This portion of High Street is quite close to Stanford University. (Today, what once was 642 High Street appears to be a parking lot. Sic transit gloria mundi.) High Street runs parallel to one of the city's primary arteries, El Camino Real/The Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway. There's also one major street running parallel between High Street and El Camino Real: Alma Street.
The Brazilian/French/Italian/Portuguese film Black Orpheus debuted in the United States on December 21, 1959. Guaraldi is known to have seen it quite a few times, and he quickly became entranced by its marvelous soundtrack, a collaborative masterpiece by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Luis Bonfá and Antônio Maria. During the next year and change, Guaraldi shopped his concept for an album of jazz arrangements of that film's four primary themes. The project finally found a home at Fantasy Records, but the Black Orpheus music filled only one side of the album. No problem, of course; Guaraldi filled the other side with material that he'd been working up during his club gigs, most of which -- at this point in time -- would have been at Outside at the Inside.
|A vintage shot of Palo Alto's University Avenue. Note, in the lower right corner, the sign that points the way to Alma Street.|
So: Whence the name "Alma-Ville"?
As suggested by a good friend and fellow Guaraldi fan, is it reasonable to assume that Alma Street's lengthy presence in this Northern California municipality, and its proximity to High Street and Outside at the Inside, could have made Palo Alto "the city of Alma" ... or, to put it another way, Alma-Ville?
Guaraldi is known to have acknowledged the venues and areas where he performed; consider his original composition "El Matador." It's not too much a stretch to imagine that he might have paid tribute to Palo Alto in a similar, whimsical vein.
That's total guesswork, of course. But it seems a reasonable assumption.
What do you think?