Thursday, May 6, 2021

Calling Dr. Funk

By the late 1950s, Vince Guaraldi was known by two nicknames: The Italian Leprechaun, and Dr. Funk. Indeed, "Calling Dr. Funk" is a Guaraldi composition that debuted on the 1956 album, Modern Music from San Francisco.

As it happens, a Dr. Funk is a popular libation at tiki bars and restaurants. 

Are the two related?

At first blush, it seems possible; San Francisco's Tonga Room and the Bay Area-based Trader Vic's — initially in Oakland, later in San Francisco and Emeryville — were well-established by the mid-1950s. These and many other bars and restaurants constantly competed with each other, to concoct popular drink recipes. Guaraldi was quite a presence in the greater Bay Area, with his distinctive mustache and vibrant piano chops, and he certainly wouldn't have been the first celebrity to have a drink named after him.

But no.

The drink actually is quite old, and was named after a German doctor by the name of Bernard Funk, who practiced privately in Apia, Samoa, in the 1890s. We know this thanks to an entry in Frederick O'Brien's 1921 book, Mystic Isles of the South Seas

“[The potion] was made of a portion of absinthe, a dash of grenadine -- a syrup of the pomegranate fruit -- the juice of two limes, and half a pint of siphon water. Dr. Funk of Samoa, who had been a physician to Robert Louis Stevenson, had left the recipe for the concoction when he was a guest of the club. One paid half a franc for it, and it would restore self-respect and interest in one’s surroundings when even Tahiti rum failed.”

Whether Bernard Funk developed the potion on his own, and how it transitioned from a sort of patent medicine to tiki libation, remain unknown. But it became a staple on the Trader Vic's drink menu, where Vic Bergeron re-named it Doctor Funk of Tahiti, and modified the recipe thusly:

• 1 cup crushed ice
• 1 ounce gold rum
• 1 ounce dark rum
• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• 1/4 ounce lime juice
• Dash of grenadine
• Dash of simple syrup (sugar syrup)
• Dash of Pernod
• 2 ounces sparkling water
• 1 sprig mint and squeezed lime half, for garnish

Bergeron never claimed to have created this drink, but he did invent a droll relation that he dubbed Doctor Funk's Son, which he insisted was far superior. It's built as follows:

• 1 cup crushed ice
• 2 ounces dark rum
• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• 1/4 ounce lime juice
• Dash of grenadine
• Dash of simple syrup
• 2 ounces sparkling water
• 1 sprig mint and squeezed lime half, for garnish
• 1/2 ounce 151-proof rum, floated atop the drink once all other ingredients have been mixed

That 151-proof float was a rite of passage. Timid drinkers bypassed it with a straw, allowing the rum to dilute via blending; braver souls gulped.

I guess the remaining question, then, is whether our Dr. Funk ever ordered a Doctor Funk of Tahiti ... or his Son. I suspect chances are very high; how could he have resisted?

(Thanks to the Mountain of Crushed Ice blog, for the passage from O'Brien's book.)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Take us back to the ball game!

Grab your wallets; Craft Recordings is about to spend a lot of your money again.

The label recently announced a vinyl reissue of the classic album, A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Its nine evocative cues by the Vince Guaraldi Trio have been newly remastered from the original analog tapes by Kevin Gray, at Cohearent Audio.

In stores July 16 and already available for pre-order, the LP  includes a special bonus: eight collectible baseball cards that showcase Charlie Brown’s team of misfits: Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Linus and Lucy Van Pelt, Franklin Armstrong, Schroeder, and, of course, manager and pitcher, Charlie Brown. The back of each card reveals key stats for each player, including  field position and favorite sandwich.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown will also be offered in three colorful variants: a green-grass pressing at Target; a sky-blue version for VinylMePlease; and a baseball mitt-brown edition at the Craft Recordings Store, limited to 350 units (and, alas, already sold out). 

Additionally, one of the album's most memorable tracks, the up-tempo “Baseball Theme,” will be available for the very first time as a stand-alone, 7-inch single, exclusively for Record Store Day 2021. The A-side features 1964's original soundtrack version of the song, while the B-side is an alternative studio take never before available on vinyl (although it is included on the album's 2014 CD re-release). 

“Baseball Theme” was one of many tunes Guaraldi wrote for the never-released 1964 documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown: to be used in a sequence devoted to Charlie Brown’s ill-fated efforts on the ball field. Guaraldi deftly leads his trio through the up-tempo instrumental track, accompanied by bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey. 

The limited-edition single is pressed on white vinyl and housed in a colorful jacket, featuring whimsical, baseball-themed images of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Visit recordstoreday.com for a list of participating indie retailers. 












Monday, April 19, 2021

Orpheus Rising

My friend Scott recently posed an intriguing question:
 
Was Guaraldi the first jazz artist to cover the music from Black Orpheus in an album?
 
The initial assumption is to say yes, due to the timeline. Although the film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1959 — where it took the Palme d’Or — it didn’t reach the States until a screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival, on November 24 that same year. General release came a month later, on December 21; it went on to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film on April 4, 1960.
 
Guaraldi likely had seen the film several times by then. “I dug the soundtrack, and I dug ‘Samba de Orpheus,’ the tune and that scene in the movie,” he said to Ralph Gleason, several years later. “I was playing ‘Samba de Orpheus’ for a long time before I ever put [the notion of an album] together.”
 
That means he must’ve been performing that tune (and others from the film?) since early 1960, because he “put the notion together” in the summer of ’61, when he cut a demo tape of the four primary Jobim/Bonfa selections — “Samba de Orpheus,” “Manha de Carnaval,” “O Nosso Amor” and “A Felicidade” — with bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey. He shopped the tape to Capitol Records and then Columbia Records, both of which turned him down; he then snagged a one-album contract from Fantasy in early autumn. The resulting album, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, was recorded in November 1961 and February ’62, and released on April 18, 1962.
 
So … could somebody else have moved faster?

Flautist Herbie Mann certainly came close. His album Right Now, which includes a cover of "Manha de Carnaval," was recorded in March and April 1962. Alas, it wasn't released until November.
 
Mann aside, the most likely suspect, at that point in time, was Stan Getz. He grew infatuated with bossa nova in the early 1960s, and devoted several albums to that rapidly emerging genre. (That said, his iconic collaboration with Astrud Gilberto on “The Girl from Ipanema” wasn’t released until May 1964, although it had been recorded a year earlier.) And yes, his album Big Band Bossa Nova includes a cover of “Manha de Carnaval.” But the tracks were recorded August 27-28, 1962, and the album didn’t debut until October. Guaraldi beat him by half a year.
 
Next up for consideration: Quincy Jones. His album, also confusingly titled Big Band Bossa Nova — most famous these days for having introduced “Soul Bossa Nova,” now better known as Austin Powers’ theme — also includes a cover of “Manha de Carnaval.” Ah, but — once again — the tracks were recorded between June and September of 1962, and the album was released in November.

Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer's Trombone Jazz Samba includes covers of "Samba de Orfeu," "Manha de Carnaval" and "A Felicidade." Alas, the tracks were recorded in August and September 1962, and the album didn't appear until November.
 
This brings us to Ramsey Lewis, a veritable music-making machine by this point in his career. His trio’s Argo album, Bossa Nova, includes covers of both “Samba de Orpheus” and “Maha [sic] de Carnaval.” But he, too, came later to the party; the tracks were recorded on September 22 and 25, 1962, and the album also was released in November.

(On a sidebar note, during the research for this post, I noted — with delight — that this Ramsey Lewis Trio album also includes a cover of Guaraldi’s “Whirlpool,” with which I was previously unaware. And which immediately prompted an update of this post.)

Guaraldi's colleague Bola Sete seems a logical candidate, and yes: His album Bossa Nova includes a cover of "Manha de Carnaval." But it was recorded in October 1962, and not released until February 1963.

As 1962 drew to a close, George Shearing hit the studio in December, to record the tracks for his album Shearing Bossa Nova; it also includes a cover of "Manha de Carnaval." But, again, the album wasn't released until May 1963.

December 1962 also found Luiz Bonfá in the studio, no doubt wanting to take advantage of the music craze he helped ignite. Luiz Bonfá Plays and Sings Bossa Nova — arranged by no less than Lalo Schifrin, early in his career — includes a cover of "Manha de Carnaval." The album debuted in April 1963.
 
“Samba de Orfeu” popped up on Bud Shank’s Brasamba!, also released in April 1963. That tune also appeared on Bill Perkins’ Bossa Nova with Strings Attached, released the following month.
 
By this point, you must be remembering that Guaraldi’s friend and former “boss,” Cal Tjader, had gravitated toward Latin music in the late 1950s; surely he would have gotten a jump on his one-time pianist. But no: Although Tjader’s album Soña Libré includes a cover of “Manha de Carnaval,” the tracks weren’t laid down until January 28-30, 1963; the album didn’t drop until May that year.
 
Paul Desmond was next; his album Take Ten includes covers of both “Samba de Orfeu” and “Theme from Black Orpheus.” The tracks was recorded in June 1963, and the album debuted in October.
 
Interest subsequent expanded exponentially:

• “Manha de Carnaval” is on Gerry Mulligan’s Night Lights (December 1963).

• “Manha de Carnaval” is on the Modern Jazz Quartet’s The Sheriff (April 1964).

• “Samba de Orfeu” is on Ray Anthony’s Hit Songs to Remember (May 1966).

• “Samba de Orpheus” and “Manha de Carnaval” are on Charlie Byrd’s Byrdland (January 1967).

• “Manha de Carnaval” and “Samba de Orfeu” are on Oscar Peterson’s Soul Español (March 1967).

• A lengthy Black Orpheus medley — with “Manha de Carnaval,” “A Felicidade” and “Samba De Orfeu” — is on Bola Sete at the Monterey Jazz Festival (July 1967).
 
And so forth. Both “Manha de Carnaval” and “Samba De Orfeu” have become jazz standards.
 
So, does that mean Guaraldi scored first?

Emphatically ... not!

Harry James and his Orchestra released an MGM single in February 1961 (!). The A-side selling point is "Jersey Bounce," and the B-side is -- drumroll, please -- "Theme from Orfeu Negro (Manha de Carnaval)." James therefore wins the lottery.

And, indeed, Guaraldi wasn't even second. Hard bop saxophonist Rocky Boyd and his quintet hit the studio in March 1961, to record their album Ease It; the six tracks include a cover of "Samba de Orfeu." The album hit stores later that same year (month not specified, but definitely 1961).
 
Finally, I'm still uncertain about saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s third album, Wayning Moments, which includes a cover of the Black Orpheus theme. (The digital re-release features a second take.) The original LP was recorded on November 2 and 6, 1961; it hit stores in “1962.” Despite my best efforts, I’ve not been able to discover which month. If we assume the usual three- to four-month lead time, that means the album could have dropped in February or March, which indeed would have beaten Guaraldi by just a bit.
 
I can’t say for certain. Shorter’s album doesn’t appear to have been mentioned in any 1961 or ’62 issue of Billboard — which is unusual — nor could I find any reviews published during its debut. 

But that no longer matters. We now know that Harry James and Rocky Boyd did indeed beat Guaraldi to the punch.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Plenty of respect!

Following up on my January 24 post, I issued an open request for help in creating a list of jazz artists who've recorded a) original tribute compositions honoring Guaraldi; and b) covers of Guaraldi compositions other than "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and the Charlie Brown Christmas quartet ("Linus and Lucy," "My Little Drum," "Christmas Is Coming" and "Christmas Time Is Here"). I also asked that David Benoit and George Winston not be included, since both are well known for having released several full albums of Guaraldi covers. (In other words, they're too obvious!)

The response was quite helpful. Scott, Chad and Ryo each supplied several suggestions; I also got more creative with Web searches, thanks to iTunes, Spotify and discogs. Then there's Paul, who was inspired by my post to establish a dynamic Wikipedia database that does include the five popular tunes I left out above. (Obviously, he has far too much free time on his hands!) He and I also have been trading information.

My result follows, and — given that new covers are apt to pop up every year — I imagine this list will grow, with time. Listenable versions of most entries can be found somewhere on the Web, but others are quite obscure.

Let me begin by citing full (or partial) tribute albums, a few of which are repeats from my earlier post. French horn player Aaron Brask's 2010 album, The Guaraldi Sessions, has 20 covers. (I've not included his efforts in the following list; just buy the album!) Jazz pianist Terry Disley and his quartet cover five tunes on their 2011 album, Brubeck vs. Guaraldi. Former Guaraldi drummer Jerry Granelli has three covers on his 2020 album, Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison.

Newer discoveries include the Ku Il Oh Quartet's 2011 album, Holiday Songs Volume One, which — despite its somewhat misleading title — actually is entirely devoted to Guaraldi covers and fresh arrangements of material from A Charlie Brown Christmas. And speaking of misleading, the quartet known as Jake — Tony Mason, piano; Steve Rashid, horn; Gregg Emery, bass; and Hugh Barlow, drums — released a 1984 LP titled A Tribute to Evans & Guaraldi, but only two of its 10 tracks are Guaraldi tunes. On the other hand, pianist Bruce Polson's 1997 album, The Music of Vince Guaraldi, does justice to an even dozen of Vince's songs. (I have included those in the list below, because you'll never find the album; it's woefully out of print.)

One final caveat: I make no comments regarding quality here. Some of these tracks are sensational; some are ... well, not such a much. Most fall somewhere in between. Accept this as the thrill of discovery.

So let's move on, starting with new compositions that pay tribute to Vince:

• “Frisco (Dedicated to Vince Guaraldi),” Jim Emmons, 88


• “Guaraldi,” Bill Heller & Jeff Kashiwa, Find the Way


• “Have Yourself a Vince Guaraldi Christmas,” John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet, Basement Blues


• “Mountain View,” John Zorn, Alhambra Love Songs


• “Peanuts (An Ode to Vince Guaraldi),” Robert S. Bradley & Collin Oliver, Identity Crisis


• “Vince Guaraldi,” Diane Monroe and Tony Miceli, Alone Together


• “Waltz for Vince,” Jim Martinez, Good Grief! It’s Still Jim Martinez

Friday, March 26, 2021

More information!

San Francisco Chronicle music critic Ralph Gleason and Guaraldi stroll
outside Basin Street West in early 1965, during the filming of an episode
of the BBC's Inside America that profiled Gleason.
My lengthy dive into the San Francisco Chronicle archives has concluded.

It certainly was worthwhile.

Although I didn't find any other articles worth quoting in full or part, as with this Ralph Gleason column, the raw data was substantial. My Guaraldi timeline is considerably richer and more precise, particularly during the late 1950s and most of the '60s. Numerous club gigs have been added; many others have been fine-tuned.

You'll also find lots of new photos, newspaper display ads, club matchbook covers and other ephemera.

Aside from the enhanced information about Guaraldi, the Chronicle helped me nail down (in most cases) precisely when San Francisco's significant jazz clubs opened and closed. Since that information now is so much more complete, I've enhanced such entries in red; they're now much easier to find. After all, Guaraldi's career (for the most part) neatly paralleled the rise and fall of the greater San Francisco area's jazz scene.

The hunt is never over, of course. My next challenge is to identify more venues and cities during the tours Guaraldi took outside of California: from the early trips with Cal Tjader, to the 1964 tour with Benny Goodman, to the "Eastern tour" Guaraldi's trio took in the summer of 1965 (which was, I believe, the last time he toured outside the West Coast).

Research is like housework (but much more fun) ... there's always another corner to investigate!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dean Reilly: Gentleman bassist

Damn, we just lost another one: the final member of Guaraldi's original trio.

Dean left us a week ago Tuesday, March 9, at the youthful age of 94: the same age as Eddie Duran, who we lost back in November 2019. And, like Eddie, Dean kept performing almost to the very end. Unlike Eddie, who had only a guitar to keep track of, Dean was famous for lugging his massive double bass from car to stage (and back again, at the end of a gig).

They met in the early 1950s, because Dean "stalked" Eddie.

"I saw a guy with a guitar case going into an apartment across the street," Dean told me, during one of our many chats in 2010, "and I waited for him, and introduced myself. And it went from there."

Eddie, in turn, introduced Dean to Vince; the friendship blossomed to include all three. Their casual "garage band" sessions turned serious with an offer from Enrico Banducci in 1954.

"I was jamming with Eddie," Dean explained, "and somehow Vince got word that we could have a job at the hungry i, so we got together for that purpose."

The gig was all-consuming: six nights a week — Mondays were dark — and somewhat unscheduled, because of the club's intriguing layout and arrangements. "Name" acts — the Mort Sahls and Kingston Trios — were booked into the main showroom. It was separate and enclosed, with ticketed, theater-style seating and waiters who circulated and took drink orders. Guaraldi's trio played in the amusingly named "Other Room," actually the rear postion of an extended foyer/lounge area.

"We lived close by, but we drove separately," Dean continued, describing a typical evening. "It was a lot easier to park in those days. We'd start playing at 9 p.m. and continue until 1 a.m. The Other Room was where people lined up to go into the showroom. There were some bar stools, but people mostly stood in line, waiting for the show to begin; we played for their enjoyment, and to put them at ease.

"We were the frosting on the cake. We were on our own; we played what we felt like playing, when we felt like playing it. It was unbelievable, to be so loose. We'd call tunes among ourselves: standards, blues. We didn't have arrangements at first; the arrangements — key changes, that kind of thing — grew out of tunes we'd repeat over time."

This first "classic" Guaraldi Trio co-starred on Vince's first two Fantasy albums: The Vince Guaraldi Trio and A  Flower Is a Lovesome Thing. There was no drummer; as with the Nat King Cole Trio, the set-up was piano, guitar and bass. Dean easily "covered" for the absent drummer.

As you'll read in this lovely San Francisco Chronicle obit, Dean went on to perform alongside just about everybody you could think of.

As mentioned in my post on Eddie, linked above, my fondest personal memory of Dean came early in the summer of 2012. The Gods smiled upon me; I was able to hire him, Eddie, drummer Colin Bailey and pianist Jim Martinez for a performance at that year’s Beaglefest (an annual convention for fans of Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts). It was a fabulous reunion and blending of Guaraldi's two early trios: an evening of magic.

Godspeed, Dean. Heaven's massive jazz band just got a lot more swing.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ralph Gleason: Prophet

I've been in the research tank for the past month, thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle finally being available as a searchable online archive. That option didn't exist for most newspapers when I gathered information for my Guaraldi biography, back in 2008 through 2011. Since then, just about every newspaper — large and small — has been granted that sort of Internet presence. Some are free to the general public; some are free when accessed via libraries (particularly university libraries); some are locked behind the paywalls at newsbank.com or newspapers.com.

During the past decade, as the archives of newspapers of particular importance to Guaraldi's career became available — the San Francisco Examiner, the Oakland Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the San Mateo Times, among others — I added club performance details and other bits of information to my Guaraldi timeline. Sometimes a particularly juicy nugget prompted an entry in this blog.

But, maddeningly, the Chronicle — the most important source of Guaraldiana — failed to enter the 21st century.

Until quite recently.

"Giddy" is a good description of how I felt, upon discovery and subsequent exploration. When the dust had settled, after several weeks, I had downloaded more than 250 PDF newspaper pages. Most contained hitherto unknown information; many amplified — and even corrected — existing data that was either incomplete, or totally wrong. As a result, the Guaraldi timeline has been enhanced significantly, and it will continue to expand as I work my way through all the data.

However, this particular Ralph Gleason column deserves a showcase all its own.

This was published on July 5, 1962. Bear in mind, that was not quite three months after the release of Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus; and two months before fellow Chronicle columnist Hal Schaefer reported, on September 15, that Guaraldi had become "the first West Coast jazz pianist to sell over 50,000 albums in less than five weeks."

Gleason's column is noteworthy both for its prescience, and for the unxpected "confession" he makes in the third paragraph, and for the fact that "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is not mentioned. 

Enjoy!

********

The question in local jazz circles, these days, is "Will success spoil Vince Guaraldi?"

The diminutive Italian leprechaun seems to have a hit on his hands, with his new Fantasy LP, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus (Fantasy 3337). Already there is action throughout the country; in some areas, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, it has "taken off," as the trade describes it.

When Vince asked if I would write the notes for the LP, I was a bit hesitant because, although I had dug the Guaraldi treatment of the Orpheus music when I had heard him play it in the clubs, I had not always dug the Guaraldi trio. So when I had a chance to listen to the tapes, I was delightfully surprised. They were a gas, not only for the Orpheus music, but also for the originals by Vince, and for the great version of "Since I Fell for You."

Some albums have "hit" written on them, or so you think when you first hear it. Vince's LP made that impression on me, and I am delighted to find that it is coming true. A single from the album has been widely played on the air, and might even take off on its own.

Offers for the trio's services are coming in now, though Vince still has bitter memories of last Christmas, when he was out of work. His may be the latest in the line of San Francisco groups to break through the sound barrier and become a commercial jazz property. Along with the money that this brings, there are lots of pressures, so the question, "Will success spoil Vince Guaraldi?", is not as idle as it might sound.

Vince, however, treats it with his characteristic flippancy.

"Of course it will," he says, "but I'll have plenty of company."

Monday, February 15, 2021

What's in a word? (Or two?) (Or three?)

You’d think, after slightly more than three decades, that somebody would have noticed and discussed this by now.

 

But no; it appears to be a recent discovery, brought to my attention by David, a good friend and fellow Guaraldi fan.

 

Readers of this blog — and probably a good percentage of people throughout the world — undoubtedly know the lyrics of “Christmas Time Is Here” by heart. Goodness, we’ve watched A Charlie Brown Christmas countless times, and played the soundtrack album even more than that.

 

So we all remember that the show opens with the Peanuts gang ice skating and crooning the tune (actually “ghosted” by young members of the St. Paul’s church choir, from San Rafael, California: a group that included David). It’s a joyous scene, and — following the “Sleigh bells in the air” bridge — this is what we next hear:

 

Christmas time is here …

Fam-lies drawing near …

 

A quarter-century passed, before the song was covered by another artist: Patti Austin, on the 1989 compilation album, Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!

 

Following the “Sleigh bells” bridge, this is what she sings:

 

Christmas time is here …

We’ll be drawing near …

 

Take a moment. Let it sink in.

 

Perform an Internet search on the lyricss to “Christmas Time Is Here,” and most results — but not all — show “We’ll be drawing near.” That’s likely due to the way the song is printed — complete with sheet music — on pages 93-95 in Lee Mendelson’s 2000 book, A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition. Because why would anybody assume that Mendelson’s book might be incorrect? After all, he penned the lyrics, back in the day.

 

“We couldn’t find anybody to write the lyrics,” Mendelson recalled, in a 2008 interview for TV Time Machine. “I called all my Hollywood friends who were songwriters. But nobody took the assignment, so I sat down, and in about 10 minutes wrote the words to ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ on an envelope.

 

“I sure wish I still had that envelope!”

 

Well, we may not have the envelope, but we have something almost as good: the song’s copyright deposit, filed with the U.S. Library of Congress on February 7, 1966. You can see the relevant bit at the top of the second page, shown at left:

 

Fam-lys. Growing (!)

 

So … what happened?

 

Did Lee change his mind, at some point between 1965 and 2000? Did he mis-remember? Did he hear and prefer Patti Austin’s slight modification?

 

(I sure wish I’d learned about this sooner, because he’s no longer around to ask. More’s the pity.)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Valentine's Day treat

Celebrated solo pianist George Winston, a longtime Guaraldi fan, will devote this weekend's live-streamed concert to compositions from Dr. Funk's catalogue.

It will take place at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) and 4 p.m. (Pacific), on Sunday, February 14.

The performance is in support of Feeding America, and donations can be made here. The concert's direct YouTube link is here, and it'll likely be available via Winston's Facebook page, as well.

The tentative set list will include selections from Winston's two tribute albums — Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, and Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2 — along with a preview of material from his upcoming album, Count the Ways: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 3. Following the pattern of those albums, many of the selections will be medleys, with two or three Guaraldi themes weaving in and around each other. One tune, "The Masked Marvel," will be performed in the style of famed New Orleans rhythm and blues keyboardist James Booker, another of Winston's musical inspirations.

Set your reminders!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The respect of one's peers

My good friend Scott recently called my attention to the fact that jazz vibraphonist Tony Miceli's 2014 album with violinist Diane Monroe, Alone Together, includes an original track titled "Vince Guaraldi."

"For a lot of people my age," Miceli notes, "[A Charlie Brown Christmas] might have been your first exposure to jazz. [Guaraldi] wrote beautiful melodies, and as my musical taste grew, I began to realize more and more how heavy he was. Thinking of him was a great inspiration for me."

Vexingly, the album isn't available for listening on Spotify or Amazon, but you can watch Miceli deliver a live performance of "Vince Guaraldi" here. The Guaraldi vibe isn't exactly obvious, but I do detect the wistful quality of "Rain, Rain Go Away" and "Great Pumpkin Waltz."

This reminded me that I'd earlier written about the 2016 John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet album, Basement Blues, which includes an original composition titled "Have Yourself a Vince Guaraldi Xmas." Again, an obvious nod to Vince's work is hard to detect, although (as I said then) "faint suggestions of 'Christmas Time Is Here' hover throughout." You can investigate that here.

And this got me thinking...

Album tributes to Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Christmas have become ubiquitous; I've most recently tabulated them here. All four of Guaraldi's original compositions from that TV special also have gotten heavy coverage, as has "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," which has become one of the most oft-covered anthems in the jazz pantheon.

But what about all of Guaraldi's other original compositions?

The Dan Dance Trio's 2003 album, Live at the PY, includes a reading of "Ginza Samba," which can be enjoyed here. Brad Myers and Michael Sharfe's 2016 album, Sanguinaria, features a tasty arrangement of "Great Pumpkin Waltz," which you'll find here. How 'Bout Now, a 1993 album by the Portland, Oregon, jazz trio Tall Jazz, features a sensational cover of "Red Baron." You'll have to take my word for that one, because the album is woefully out of print, and nowhere to be found online.

French horn player Aaron Brask led a jazz/string combo that covers a whopping 20 compositions on his 2010 album, The Guaraldi Sessions; samples are listenable here. (The instrumentation is unusual, to say the least, and the album doesn't exactly swing. But it's enjoyable nonetheless.) Northern California jazz pianist Terry Disley and his quartet cover five Guaraldi compositions, including "Treat Street" and "Peppermint Patty," on their 2011 album Brubeck Vs. Guaraldi; check his website for more information. And former Guaraldi drummer Jerry Granelli includes a cover of "Star Song" (along with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and "Christmas Time Is Here") on his 2020 album Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison, as I previously mentioned here.

So ... what else is Out There?

To quote the former (and dearly missed!) Los Angeles-based sci-fi radio talk show Hour 25, I'm calling on the Group Mind for some assistance, in order to compile a definitive — or at least, somewhat longer — list of Guaraldi covers. But there are some ground rules:

• Ignore "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and the four Charlie Brown Christmas compositions ("Linus and Lucy," "Skating," "Christmas Is Coming" and "Christmas Time Is Here"). We're after the less common stuff.

• Ignore the efforts of Cal Tjader, George Winston and Davis Benoit. They're too easy.

• And while we're at it, are there any other Guaraldi tribute compositions, along the lines of the ones mentioned above by Tony Miceli and the Stowell/Zilber Quartet?

So c'mon, gang. Acknowledgement will be given, and I'll amend this blog entry — or prepare an entirely new one, if warranted — as the information rolls in.