Monday, November 11, 2013

Memories from Marin

Artistic immortality depends on many factors, not the least of which requires the ongoing involvement of a devoted fan base. But if a musician (for example) is to remain relevant with time, his work must remain available. If access disappears or becomes difficult, that musician's mainstream penetration will fade as his original fans grow older. Subsequent generations, lacking the necessary awareness, won't even realize that Somebody Cool has dropped from sight.

Guaraldi has been luckier than many, thus far; his entire Fantasy Records catalog has remained in print ever since each album debuted in the 1950s and '60s. More recent Fantasy/Concord CDs also are readily available, as are most of the discs issued by Vince's son, David. (A few of the latter are easier to find as MP3 downloads.) The same is true of almost all the albums he recorded as a sideman with groups fronted by Cal Tjader and others. The only "problem children" are Doctor Funk's latter two Warners albums, The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi and Alma-Ville. Their distribution always has been spotty, and it hasn't gotten better recently. As I type these words, the Wounded Bird CD release of Eclectic is easy to find, but the same label's CD release of Alma-Ville is virtually unavailable (unless one gives serious consideration to the individual selling a copy for $90 via Amazon).

All things considered, though, one can assemble an impressive library of Guaraldi's music with very little trouble, and (for the most part) at reasonable cost.

But that's only half the battle.

True immortality comes when one's music becomes firmly associated with the era in which it first appeared, and, therefore, gets resurrected as a means of "setting the stage," so to speak. I was delighted to hear the Guaraldi Trio's cover of "Since I Fell for You" employed as source music in the film An Education, which was set in the early 1960s; I was even more pleased when that track appeared alongside others by Ray Charles, Percy Faith and Mel Torme on the soundtrack album. That's massive, because it's a key means of attracting new listeners who wouldn't necessarily pick up a Guaraldi album otherwise.

The goal, then, is to have one's music appear in other contexts, thus broadening exposure to the greatest possible degree.

I therefore was delighted to learn about The Marin Project, thanks to Paul Liberatore's delightful article in the November 7 edition of the Marin Independent Journal. Liberatore wrote a wonderful article about my Guaraldi bio last year — and the layout looks even better on the printed page than via the online version — and he's equally gracious about this quite eclectic album.

It began as a vanity project by Marin-based financial relations consultant John Liviakis, who wanted to produce an album of music that resonated with memorable moments of his life while growing up in Northern California. He's not in it for the money, by any means; he spent $90,000 assembling a cadre of Bay Area session musicians, and any profits from album sales will be donated to the Salvation Army and Marin's Homeward Bound.

The reason why this topic is even being discussed here? Because Liviakis' rather unusual (to say the least!) song list includes two Guaraldi tracks: "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and "Star Song," covered in a manner — by design — that sounds, as much as possible, just like the original recordings. (You can hear a portion of "Star Song" at the album's web site.) That's an intriguing approach, as Liberatore acknowledges; jazz artists always make a point of putting their own distinctive stamp on cover arrangements. But "distinctive" wasn't Liviakis' intention, as he explains: "These are historic, classic works, iconic in some cases. I didn't feel I should start changing things around."

Slavish re-creations often raise eyebrows, but you'll just have to get the album and judge for yourself. I can say this much with certainty, however: We'll never again find two Guaraldi jazz compositions on an album that also includes works by Mozart, Erik Satie, Roger Eno and Booker T. & The MGs!

No comments: