Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Bits & bobs: late spring 2024

The colored vinyl craze shows no sign of letting up.

When the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving debuted last October, fans of solid media had a choice of formats: CD, plain black vinyl, Record Store Day's jelly bean green vinyl, and Target's cranberry vinyl.

Bet you thought that would be it, right?


Those vinyl color variants blew out so quickly, many folks never even saw one in person, let alone were able to purchase one. Well, you'll have another chance. This coming October 18, participating Record Store Day outlets will unveil yet another vinyl variant: jelly bean purple! Details are here.

If you're late to the party, or need a reminder about the album details, check out this earlier post.

Honestly, my LP shelves are sagging...!


Back in early 2022, I ran a post about how the folks at Lee Mendelson Film Productions, in collaboration with Hal Leonard Publishing, had made (initally) 18 of Guaraldi's less well-known Peanuts themes and cues available via downloadable sheet music folios. 

Quite a few more subsequently were released, as you can discover by doing a search at Sheet Music Direct for "Vince Guaraldi." (It helps to narrow the search by sub-selecting "Piano Solo.")

Folks who prefer old-fashioned songbooks (and I'm one of them) will be pleased to learn that Hal Leonard has published 20 of these themes and cues in a book titled The Peanuts Piano Collection. It isn't new -- having been issued in May 2022 -- but I never got around to mentioning it ... until now.


The new content in the just-published second edition of my Guaraldi biography includes an appendix that lists the use of Guaraldi's music in popular culture ... which is to say, TV shows and movies. I tried to make it authoritative as of publication date, but (of course!) this is the sort of data that quickly becomes incomplete.

Case in point: director Richard Linklater's audacious new film Hit Man, which had a brief theatrical release beginning May 24, and then debuted on Netflix on June 7. The film's charms are many, and I can't recommend it enthusiastically enough; check out my full-length review. (For those unaware, I wear many hats; I've also been a film critic since ...  well, way back in the day.)

The story is set in New Orleans, and the soundtrack is laden with songs by longtime local stalwarts such as Jelly Roll Morton and Dr. John, along with rising newcomers Rob49 and Tuba Skinny. You'll also hear a very familiar tune twice during the film, most memorably during the end credits: Allen Toussaint's gorgeous cover of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind."

Now, I'd like to think that my recommendation — and the involvement of Linklater and stars Glen Powell and Adria Arjona — would be sufficient motivation ... but if you're still wavering, how can you miss this opportunity to hear Guaraldi's signature tune in such a setting? 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Insidious 1960s doings by the coffee industry

Although the final decade of Guaraldi’s composing career was dominated by the many original themes and cues he wrote for the first 15 Peanuts TV specials and 1969’s big-screen A Boy Named Charlie Brown, his live performances during this period — of necessity — were much more varied.

Guaraldi’s early albums also reflected this diversity. Like most jazz performers, he delivered his own arrangements of Great American Standards by — among numerous others — the Gershwins (“Fascinatin’ Rhythm”), Cole Porter (“It’s De-Lovely”), Ann Ronell (“Willow Weep for Me”) and Buddy Johnson (“Since I Fell for You”). Over time, Guaraldi expanded his repertoire to include tunes by Henry Mancini (“Moon River,” “The Days of Wine and Roses” and “Mr. Lucky”), Antonio Carlos Jobim (“The Girl from Ipanema”), Bobby Scott & Ric Marlow (“A Taste of Honey”) and many more.


As the 1960s wore on, acknowledging the explosion of pop and rock hits, Guaraldi’s albums and club gigs added songs by — to name just a few —The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Donovan, Bob Dylan and Sonny Bono.


Point being, if you listen to Guaraldi’s albums, focusing on the songs he didn’t compose, you’re bound to recognize just about everything: the titles, the melodies, or both.


Except, perhaps, for a track on the sole album that he released on his own D&D label: 1967’s Vince Guaraldi with the San Francisco Boys Chorus.


Where the heck, most of today’s listeners must wonder, did “Think Drink” come from?


Therein lies quite a tale.


As recounted in John Kelly’s fascinating October 2022 Washington Post article, in 1966 the London-based International Coffee Organization (ICO) decided to go after the American youth market: specifically, 17-to-20-year-olds. At that point in time, coffee was viewed as an adult beverage; teens and early twentysomethings were an almost wholly untapped audience. 


“We feel that the younger people are not drinking all the coffee they should,” intoned the executive secretary of the World Coffee Promotion Committee, in a New York Times interview that year. (One must chuckle at his pomposity.)

The ICO hired the American ad agency McCann-Erickson to mount a campaign that was quickly highlighted by newspaper ads and a 60-second TV commercial aimed at young adults. The message: that whenever they pondered a difficult decision, or had to study for a test, coffee would activate the brain cells and keep them focused.


The TV commercials — one of which can be viewed here — were backed by a catchy instrumental melody written by Richard S. Boyell, called “Music to Think By” — aka “Think Drink” — and performed by (I’m not making this up) “Mr. T and the Coffeehouse 5.” It was released as the 45 single shown above.


What’s fascinating, by today’s standards, is that the commercials don’t plug any particular brand of coffee ... just coffee itself!


McCann-Erickson also commissioned a 27-minute documentary film, Coffee House Rendezvous, which features groups of teenagers in Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin banding together to create coffeehouses in churches, unused downtown offices and even family basements. Viewed today, this film is wincingly corny, with an emphasis on squeaky-clean teens: almost all white, of course, although I did spot fleeting glimpses of a Black young woman and, toward the end, a Black folk singer. During tight close-ups, many of these kids parrot their insistence that these spaces are great for hanging out and having fun. 


Or, more precisely — in parallel commentary supplied by numerous parents — “somewhere to stay out of trouble.”


“A coffeehouse is a great idea for kids,” chirps one earnest girl. “You know, a place of our own, without a lot of parents staring down our back.”


“Kids come in here and meet new friends, talk to old friends, and play cards,” another girl chimes in, “or just sit around and talk, or just do absolutely nothing. It’s good for studying, if you have something to read, and wanna be a little bit alone.”


This laughable relic had its own lively title theme, written by Ted Steeg and Jordan Ramin, and performed by The Nitelighters ... and I suspect the average 1966 teen would have preferred root canal surgery, to being forced to watch the silly thing.


McCann-Erickson even commissioned the creation of a signature “Think Drink” coffee mug, shown at left, which one could obtain via mail order for the modest cost of 75 cents. 

The campaign clearly was successful, and it’s probably no coincidence that the first Starbucks opened in Seattle just a few years later, on March 30, 1971. (Indeed, folks at the ICO and McCann-Erickson, back in the day, likely would be astonished by how successful they eventually were!)


Boyell’s tune was so popular that it was covered by numerous other performers, including The Harvey Averne DozenMariano Moreno, 2+2, Morty Craft and His Orchestra, The Mighty Flea (aka Gene Conners), The New Swing SextetThe Howard Roberts QuartetDick Boyell and His Orchestra, Benny Golson, Don Patterson (a marvelously funky version) and even Doc Severinsen.  Not to be outdone, The American Breed did a vocal version!


You must remember that this was an era when instrumental TV commercial jingles could become pop hits, whether as original compositions — such as “Think Drink” and Grandville A. Burland’s “No Matter What Shape You’re Stomach’s In” (for Alka-Seltzer) — or when borrowed from other sources: most notably Elmer Bernstein’s title theme for The Magnificent Seven (Marlboro cigarettes) and Sid Ramen’s “Music to Watch Girls By” (Diet Pepsi).


It's therefore no surprise that Guaraldi, recording an album in 1967, would have included his own take on “Think Drink.”

And now you know why.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The second time around!

Big news, gang.

Huge, actually.

After two lonely years spent in my patented deep-sea isolation chamber, I've emerged victorious with the enhanced and improved second edition of my Guaraldi biography. McFarland, my beloved publisher, graciously agreed to share this magnificent tome with the world at large. It officially becomes available today.

[Um ... too much?]

Okay, I embellished a little.

In point of fact, I was quite honored — back in January 2022 — when McFarland expressed interest in an updated version of the original 2012 book. The target goal of such projects, I was told, was at least 25 percent new material; did I think I could supply that much?

Goodness, yes, I replied. Probably a bit more.

For starters — and this is no surprise, with such a book — within weeks of original publication, I started hearing from additional people with great "Guaraldi encounter" experiences to share, along with sidemen I'd either been unable to track down, or who simply hadn't been on my radar at all. Some of their stories first appeared in earlier posts in this blog; others are seeing print for the first time in the book's new edition.

Then, too, Guaraldi's star has gone supernova during the past decade, with all manner of new album releases, expanded and re-mastered editions of earlier albums, and wholly unexpected and unprecedented Billboard chart-making sales figures. Guaraldi arguably is much more famous today, than he was during his own lifetime ... and he was well celebrated then!

The excitement generated by all this fresh success demanded to be recorded for posterity in an updated edition of his biography.

But there was one stipulation: Neither McFarland nor I wanted the book to get excessively fat, because that would have pushed the cover price beyond what we considered reasonable. It therefore became necessary to trim the existing content by roughly 25 percent, in order to make room for the new material.

That was a fascinating challenge ... because, ideally, I wanted such cuts to be invisible, or nearly so. I felt like a director tasked with whittling a 160-minute first cut down to its best possible self, at 120 minutes ... and then making it even better with 40 additional minutes of fresh footage.

And, yes; that took the better part of 20 months. As the work progressed, I frequently was reminded of the sage wisdom of British journalist, critic and novelist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who advised the frequent necessity to ruthlessly "murder your darlings." Which is to say, a glib turn of phrase — or paragraph or three — that's cute for its own sake, serves no real purpose.

Hard advice. I like my glib turns of phrase.

(And yes; I'm well aware that many attribute that guidance to either William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway. They're wrong.)


Both McFarland and I are pleased with the ultimate result: a heartfelt book that (in my humble opinion) does an even better job of honoring the late and totally great Vince Guaraldi.

I'm further honored to have a new, second Foreword by good buddy and multiple Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Michael Graves, and the truly snazzy cover designed by equally good friend and multi-talented Douglas Anderson. Gentlemen, take a bow.

The official McFarland order page can be found here.

Although the book wasn't officially released until today, I'm pretty sure folks have been able to order from other sources for awhile. Such is the crazy world of publishing these days.

Needless to say, I hope you all enjoy it...

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Summer comes twice this year!

Now that the madness of Record Store Day is behind us, and the 1,200 LP copies of that album in "camp green vinyl" sold out within minutes — and already are turning up on after-market sites such as eBay, at outrageously inflated prices — we can turn our attention to mainstream releases.

The bad news: Patience remains necessary.

The good news: We finally have a solid date — July 5 — for the release on CD, via digital and two new LP editions: a regular black vinyl (available at all retailers) and a Record Store Day Indie Exclusive "summer night blue" vinyl.

The CD, digital, and black vinyl are now available to pre-order from Amazon and other retailers, and the RSD Indie Exclusive is pre-orderable from record stores .

I don't need to repeat everything from the earlier post regarding this album — which includes the full track list — but a few relevant details should be mentioned again:

This is by far the "richest" of Guaraldi's Peanuts TV scores, because he was able to re-unite with many of the jazz cats with whom he also was laying down the tracks for the big screen's debut Peanuts film, A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Thus, this Short Summer session features Guaraldi (piano), Monty Budwig (double bass), Jack Sperling (drums), Conti and Pete Candoli (trumpets), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Victor Feldman (percussion), Herb Ellis (guitar), and William Hood and Peter Christlieb (woodwinds), with John Scott Trotter as orchestra leader. 

This 55th anniversary debut of Guaraldi’s score grants us the opportunity to enjoy these tracks in their full, “little big band” glory: a listening experience not possible while watching the TV special, because — in many cases — the music is significantly “dialed down” behind action and dialogue, making it difficult to appreciate the performance intricacies. 

As an indication of how busy Guaraldi, Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez were in 1969, and the scramble to finish all the elements of this special in time for its September 27 debut on CBS-TV, Guaraldi and his combo didn’t hit the studio to record the music until September 11 and 12. The recorded tracks therefore were edited into the show, and the finished product shipped off to CBS, in just two weeks: almost unprecedented, at that point in time. (One envisions plenty of hair being torn out.)

The full Lee Mendelson Film Productions press release can be found here.

Three sample tracks can be heard here.

For those of you who don't remove the shrink-wrap from your collectible LPs, be advised: It's difficult to distinguish the three.

• The Record Store Day "camp green" edition has a barcode sticker on the outside of the shrink-wrap. That barcode number is 60137-14240.

• The "summer night blue" album will have an "indie exclusive" sticker on the front, and does not have an external barcode sticker. Its barcode number is 60137-14544.

* The black vinyl will also have a barcode sticker on the outside of the shrinkwrap - barcode number still to be determined, but it will be different from either of the other two.

Mind you, these differences are subtle: an indentically sized white sticker placed directly on top of (and covering) the existing white barcode printed on the LP jacket (beneath the shrink-wrap). It would be almost impossible to distinguish between the three when making an online purchase, without being able to see the barcode numbers, so ... caveat emptor.

Finally, this detail is worth a reminder:

This new release was made possible, in great part, by the enthusiastic response — and better-than-anticipated sales figures — of last year's soundtrack debut of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. You know how this works: If Short Summer proves similarly successful, that'll increase the chances of additional Guaraldi treats, moving forward. So don't be parsimonious: Buy a second copy as a gift for a friend!

The Summer of 2024 promises to be quite sweet! 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Plenty of Respect: 2024 update

Three years have passed since I last addressed the topic of other jazz artists doing covers of Guaraldi compositions, back in this post.

To recap, the goal is to compile an ever-expanding 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" — because they've long been popular targets.

(As it happens, I didn't find any new original tribute compositions this time.)

Aside from keeping up with albums released since March 2021, I've also been on the prowl for older works. Spotify, iTunes and discogs have been helpful to a degree, but I really needed a database that could do more precise searches. I recently found a really cool one: The Mechanical Licensing Collective's Musical Works Database, which can be accessed here. The advantage is the ability to search by composition and composer: quite useful with respect to some of Guaraldi's more generic titles. (As the most obvious examples, several people have written songs called "Joe Cool," "Peppermint Patty" and "Pebble Beach.")

Thanks to this database, I discovered — as just one example — that former Guaraldi sideman Eddie Duran covered "Ginza" (aka "Ginza Samba") on his 1979 album of the same title.

The following list represents the new entries which have been added to the master list in the aforementioned March 2021 post. "Macedonia" and the title theme to It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown appear for the first time.

I'm intrigued by the fact that "Great Pumpkin Waltz" seems so popular. Might it blossom into a "breakout cover" that'll become another Guaraldi standard? Time will tell!

• Air Music

Ron LeGault Quintet, Charlie Brown Goes to The Nutcracker

• Charlie Brown Theme

Nate Hance Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas NHanced
Ron LeGault Quintet, Charlie Brown Goes to The Nutcracker
Isaiah J. Thompson Septet, A Guaraldi Holiday
Oliver Mewes Trio, Trio

• Ginza Samba

William Beatty, The Path of Green Stones
Eddie Duran, Ginza
Dick Fregulia Trio, Be There Now!
Claudio Giambruno, Overseas
Giuliano Perin’s Good Vibes Quartet, Sweet Lines

Great Pumpkin Waltz

Joshua Bowlus, Sleigh Ride
C. Holmes Trio, Christmas & You
Shai Jaschek, First Fall
Luke Carlos O’Reilly, The Perfect Christmas
Mich Shirey Trio, Guitar for Guaraldi
Isaiah J. Thompson Septet, A Guaraldi Holiday

Happiness Theme

Ron LeGault Quintet, Charlie Brown Goes to The Nutcracker
Harry Skoler, Conversations in the Language of Jazz

Heartburn Waltz
Isaiah J. Thompson Septet, A Guaraldi Holiday

It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown

Mark Kross Trio, Cacciatore

• Little Birdie

Clara Plestis (single)
Isaiah J. Thompson Septet, A Guaraldi Holiday


Guido Pistocchi Quintet, Spring Time

Oh, Good Grief

Nate Hance Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas NHanced

Pebble Beach

Mason Embry Trio, A Song for You
Ron LeGault Quintet, Charlie Brown Goes to The Nutcracker
Roby Perissin and the Latin Jazz Ensemble, Tribute to Latin Jazz

Peppermint Patty

Nate Hance, A Charlie Brown Christmas NHanced
Oliver Mewes Trio, Trio


Nate Hance Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas NHanced

Thanksgiving Theme

Isaiah J. Thompson Septet, A Guaraldi Holiday 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Summer comes early this year!

Big news, gang.

Lee Mendelson Film Productions has made good on its promise to deliver another of Vince Guaraldi's iconic Peanuts soundtracks.

Their announcement went live earlier today:

Available for the first time ever!
Vince Guaraldi’s complete soundtrack for 1969's It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown
Limited release in celebration of the special's 55th anniversary

Available exclusively on "Camp Green" Vinyl (12-inch, 45 RPM) 
for Record Store Day, April 20th

    “This entire score is can’t-be-played-often-enough ear candy. It’s as fresh and vibrant today — and as swinging — as when it was laid down 55 years ago: yet another captivating display of Guaraldi’s compositional genius and keyboard wizardry.
    Summer never sounded so sweet.”
— From the liner notes by Derrick Bang, Author, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano

Lee Mendelson Film Productions (LMFP) is thrilled to announce the release of Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown, the sixth animated Peanuts special, from writer/creator Charles Schulz, director Bill Melendez and producers Melendez and Lee Mendelson. The special originally aired on CBS-TV on September 27, 1969, and currently can be streamed on Apple TV+.
The album includes the original recordings that comprise the special's song cues, plus six bonus and alternative tracks that never have been released or heard before.

Track list:


Bonus content:

(Three sample tracks can be heard here.)
Guaraldi lovingly created the soundtrack for the summer camp adventure that finds Charlie Brown and his gang facing off against the girls’ camp members, led by Peppermint Patty. The album's large jazz combo also delivers the best rendition of Guaraldi's classic tune, “Love Will Come (Nova Bossa),” and features his first use of additional percussion supplied by Victor Feldman.
The recording features Guaraldi (piano), Monty Budwig (double bass), Jack Sperling (drums), Conti and Pete Candoli (trumpet), Frank Rosolino (trombone), Feldman (percussion), Herb Ellis (guitar), William Hood and Peter Christlieb (woodwinds), with John Scott Trotter as orchestra leader. The album was produced by Sean and Jason Mendelson, sons of Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson, and restored and re-mastered by Vinson Hudson.
The album will be available exclusively at participating retail outlets starting April 20, 2024, as part of Record Store Day. Store locations and additional information is available at recordstoreday.com.

The album's Record Store Day page is here.
The album includes liner notes and a track-by-track analysis by Derrick Bang and Sean Mendelson. The package also boasts images from the special, and of the recently re-discovered original tape boxes (which led to this release).  
For an extended version of the press release and more information, click here


Pretty cool, eh?

To anticipate the obvious question, CD and digital releases will follow later this year, and will be announced at a future date. (Stay tuned!)

Some of the adjectives in the press release above are a bit breathless, but the enthusiasm is warranted. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, because it's absolutely Guaraldi's jazziest and sassiest Peanuts soundtrack, thanks to the larger-than-usual combo involved (because he was simultaneously working with some of these cats on the score for the Peanuts gang's big-screen debut, in A Boy Named Charlie Brown).

This new release was made possible, in part, by the enthusiastic response — and better-than-anticipated sales figures — of last year's soundtrack debut of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And you know how this works: If Short Summer proves similarly successful, that'll increase the chances of additional Guaraldi treats, moving forward.

Record Store Day lines form well before opening time ... so don't oversleep on April 20th!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Guaraldi cover albums: a new annual tradition?

As my previous post demonstrates, Guaraldi's music for A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a popular seasonal gig for jazz combos across the country — and in Canada and the UK — who perform in bars, restaurants, concert halls, wineries and pretty much anywhere they can find a stage.

Some of these musicians aren't content to stop with live performances; they're also releasing albums!

Two landed last December (and shame on me, for not calling attention to them here, at the time).

The Music of A Charlie Brown Christmas came from San Antonio-based pianist Doc Watkins, backed by bassist Franklin Skaggs, drummer Ryan Shaw, and an impressively large ensemble. For the past several years, Watkins and his orchestra have presented this program live during most of December, at San Antonio’s JazzTX. (Makes me want to take a quick trip to Texas!)
Purists probably will insist that these 10 tracks aren't jazz; the often string-enhanced arrangements hue more closely to what you’d expect from the Boston Pops or a lavish Broadway musical. That’s particularly true with mellow readings of “The Christmas Song,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Skating,” the latter blended with “The Christmas Waltz” (which gives Watkins a chance to demonstrate his vocal chops).

Watkins gets bonus points for covering all of Guaraldi's album, including a sparkling arrangement of “Fur Elise” that opens with Beethoven-esque solo piano, and then kicks into high gear with Shaw’s jump jazz drums and tasty big band swing. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Jolly Guaraldi Holiday 2023

It's time once again for this annual round-up of Guaraldi-themed concerts taking place between now and the end of the year, most of which (of course!) are tied in to his music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The 2020 and '21 post-Covid slow-down definitely is behind us, since last year's impressive roster of performances matched pre-pandemic numbers. Some patrons and musicians remain cautious, and likely will be masked; we must respect folks wary of what seems to have become an annual "holiday infection bump." That said, the shows will go on. Some groups are "fighting back" with impressively lengthy schedules. Indeed, this year's list is much longer than ever before: We've covered 32 American states, five Canadian provinces and one venue in the UK. (And I'm sure groups in the remaining 18 states are joining in the fun; I simply haven't heard about them.)

All that said, schedules still are more fluid than they were, prior to 2020. It's best to keep an eye on the web site(s) of any artist and/or venue that catches your fancy, to learn of any last-minute changes.

I first traced the history and growth of this delightful annual tradition back in 2012, with a modest schedule that now seems quaint. This year's post will serve as a clearinghouse for any and all 2023 concerts that come to my attention. As always, I'll add to this schedule as new information becomes available, so you'll want to check back frequently. New entries and listings will be tagged as UPDATES

Let's start with mainstay groups with busy touring schedules:

• The Chris White Trio has become quite serious about honoring Guaraldi's holiday-themed Peanuts music. During the next month, Chris (on piano) will work with bassists Sean Jacobi, Mike Benning and Joe Policastro; and drummers Ryan Jacobi, Kurt Lubbe and Joe Adamik. The trio began this season back on Sunday, October 29, with a one-off performance of the music from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, at Winter's Jazz Club, in Chicago, Illinois. The same venue will host the trio's one-night tribute to the music from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 22. The group's full-schedule Charlie Brown Christmas shows will kick off Saturday, December 2, in Berwyn, Illinois, with additional performances at numerous Illinois venues, concluding Monday, December 18, at Evanston's MSpace. Details

Doc Watkins and his Orchestra began their month-long Christmas in Jazz tributes to the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas at San Antonio's JazzTX, Texas, on Friday, November 24. Upcoming shows include November 25, November 30-December 2, and December 5, 8-9, 14-16, 19 and 23. DetailsThey also scheduled a December 22 performance at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, also in San Antonio. Details. The icing on the cake: Watkins' terrific 2022 album, The Music of A Charlie Brown Christmasdo check it out!

The Eric Byrd Trio — Byrd, piano and vocals; Bhagwan Khalsa, acoustic bass; and Alphonso Young Jr., drums and percussion — has made a cottage industry of Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas music, having thus far released two cover albums: a 2009 studio project, and a 2021 live performance. Both are available here. Byrd's combo began its annual run on Sunday, November 26, in Washington, D.C., with subsequent performances in Virginia and Maryland, concluding Saturday, December 23, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, in Frederick, Maryland. Details.

• The Heather Pierson Trio — Pierson, piano; Shawn Nadeau, bass; and Craig Bryan, drums — will began an ambition Charlie Brown Christmas tour on Sunday, November 26, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Subsequent stops will include venues in New Hampshire and Maine, concluding on Sunday, December 24, in Bethel, Maine. Details.

The Eric Mintel Quartet — Mintel, piano; Nelson Hill, sax; Jack Hegyi, bass; and Dave Mohn, drums — also has a busy schedule of Charlie Brown Holiday Jazz shows starting Wednesday, November 29, in Worcester, Massachusetts, with additional shows throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, concluding Thursday, December 21, in Clinton, New Jersey. Details.

• The Cartoon Christmas Trio — Jeff Knoettner, piano; Rob Swanson, double bass; and Larry Marshall, drums — performs music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, along with tunes from other animated holiday shows, such as Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Their 2008 album is a kick; check it out.) They have an extremely busy schedule that kicks off November 30 in Wilmington, Delaware, with subsequent stops through December 23 in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Details.

• Popular jazz pianist David Benoit traditionally headlines a concert tour of his Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown each December. This year's schedule — which again features vocalist Courtney Fortune — kicks off Sunday, December 3, in Saratoga, California, with subsequent stops in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona and additional California venues, and concludes Thursday-Saturday, December 21-23, at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle, Washington. Check his website for details.

The Ornaments — Jen Gunderman, piano; Martin Lynds, bass; and James Haggaerty, drums — will be joined by special guest soloists for their 18th annual performances of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas during a busy schedule that runs from December 16-23: two shows Saturday, December 16, at the Temple Theatre in Portland, Tennessee; and 13 shows (!) Monday through Saturday, December 18-23, at the Eastside Bowl, in Nashville, Tennesee. Details.

The Annie Booth Trio — Booth, piano; Patrick McDevitt, bass; and Alejandro Castaño, drums — will be joined by guest vocalists Bailey Hinkley Grogan, Jenna McLean and Marion Powers, for their 10th annual Charlie Brown Christmas concerts during 13 shows (!) Monday through Sunday, December 18-24, at Dazzle, in Denver, Colorado. Details.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Pass the drumstick!

With copies of Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving finally landing in the hands of eager fans who've literally waited — in some cases — half a century for this treasure, Sean and Jason Mendelson have been hitting the publicity trail.

Check out the following:

• Sean and Jason's impressively enthusiastic, 35-minutes October 12 visit to the Cereal at Midnight podcast;

• A brief October 13 album plug at Jazz Weekly;

• The New York Times' reader-submitted "Ultimate Fall Playlist," published October 13, with Guaraldi's "Great Pumpkin Waltz" first on the 14-track result (where it's the only instrumental);

• Sean Mendelson's lengthy, 40-minute focus on the vinyl edition, during this October 18 chat with WCB: Jazz Vinyl Collector

• This nifty CNN video plug, citing the album alongside new releases from the Rolling Stones and Nancy Sinatra ... a gathering of 1960s icons!

• Sean Mendelson's 25-minute interview about the album, during this November 8 Neon Jazz Interviews chat;

• The official Lee Mendelson Film Productions Inc. YouTube album playlist.

And a couple blasts from the past:

• Good Housekeepings's "50 Best Thanksgiving Songs for Your Turkey Day Playlist," updated back in November 2021, with Guaraldi's "Thanksgiving Theme" nicely slotted at No. 19; and

• Entertainment Weekly's "15 Essential Songs for Your Thanksgiving Playlist," published in November 2022. The last-place entry goes to Guaraldi's "Thanksgiving Theme." (Hey, it still made the list, right?) In both these cases, the tune now can be heard on its own soundtrack album.

Finally, for those who eschew physical media, links to four different sources that offer digital purchase/downloads of the Thanksgiving tracks. (Qobuz is a reliable seller of lossless downloads; Presto Music is known mostly as a shop for classical music, but they also offer soundtracks and jazz.)

(This isn't a definitive list, merely the most common sources.)

Amazon (MP3) (click on "Purchase Options")

Apple/iTunes (M4A) (may open automatically in Music app, or you may need to click the "open in Music" button)

Qobuz (lossless download, high-res download)

Presto Music (lossless or MP3 download)


Finally, a brief acknowledgment of the holiday that comes before Thanksgiving...

Folks living in or near Chicago won't want to miss the Chris White Quartet's October 29 concerts at Winter's Jazz Club. Chris has been among the most ambitious of Guaraldi's torch-bearers; in addition to a busy annual schedule of Charlie Brown Christmas-themed shows — 23 this year! — in recent years he has branched out to include Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving gigs ... along with a Latin-themed Guaraldi set in July 2022.

We love this guy!

Friday, October 13, 2023

End of an era?

Has the Charlie Brown Christmas vinyl craze finally played out?

Concord/Craft confirmed that only one vinyl variant will be released this year: the picture vinyl shown at left, available solely from Barnes & Noble.


Although this LP was scheduled to be released on September 22, it's "temporarily out of stock" at B&N's online store. Nor is it available in any of the 21 B&N outlets within 100 miles of our home. On top of which, I have a report from one fan who advance-ordered it online awhile back, and his order was canceled ... which is odd.

Hopefully, it simply has been delayed.

That aside ... goodness, just the one? 

That's quite a reduction from last year, which saw eight variants, as also was the case in 2021. (A complete history of this marketing program, which photos of the variants, can be found here.) Including this year's release, and assuming my math is accurate — and if it isn't, I'm sure somebody will tell me — über-fans will have accumulated 42 LPs and one green 45 single.

I'd love to know what such an individual did with them all.

Display all the discs on a wall? (If somebody reading this actually did that, please send a photo; I'll happily post it here.)

It seems unsatisfying to simply file them vertically, with only their side ID visible, as with a conventional row of LPs.

There's no question that all the vinyl variants released during the past several years helped push the album into the Billboard 200's Top 10 for the past two years. I wonder, then, if that won't happen this year.

I guess we'll find out...