Sunday, January 27, 2013

Incident at a Coffee Shop

Although I've had the honor — and great joy — to chat with all sorts of folks who knew and worked with Guaraldi, I often think about the people I missed interviewing.

I first met Vince's son David, and his family, at an all-Guaraldi concert George Winston gave in November 1998, in Santa Rosa. David's group included his grandmother — yep, Vince's mother — and I walked her back to their car, when the evening concluded. She held my arm like a cultured lady at a society dance. So close, I reflect, so close ... but that was years before I decided to write my book.

Vince's ex-wife, Shirley, also died before I ever had a chance to meet her. As far as I know, she never was interviewed formally about their years together. That may have been by choice; she's not mentioned at all in Bob Deorchuck's excellent Guaraldi profile in the July 1981 issue of Keyboard Magazine — which definitely is worth seeking out, for those who've not read it — and there's no evidence she attended any of the annual Guaraldi reunion concerts at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, for as long as they lasted.

Gretchen Glanzer and friend. She modeled for Lilli Ann
during her early years with Vince, and therefore knew
how to "sell" a photo. Many of Guaraldi's LP covers are
droll, but this definitely is the best.

(Photo by Charles Weckler)
Number One with a bullet on my list of those who got away, however, is Vince's longtime girlfriend, Gretchen Katamay (Gretchen Glanzer, when he knew her). I missed her by inches ... well ... by a few months. She maintained a close relationship with Vince's two children, and particularly with Dia. Gretchen apparently was a cheerful, gregarious woman who lived life to the fullest and loved talking about Vince. I was lucky to gain access to an on-camera interview she gave in August 2003, for a project that never got off the ground; I was, as a result, able to spend about an hour listening to her share memories ... many of which put an even broader smile on her already beaming face.

But I sure wish I'd met her in person.

I therefore was quite pleased to receive a note from a gentleman named Brian McCormack, who thought I'd enjoy hearing a little story he had to tell. He thought correctly; he also agreed to share his anecdote in this wider forum. Take it away, Brian:

I've been a huge fan of Vince Guaraldi since I was a child, and have enjoyed playing his music on the piano for many years now.

On Labor Day weekend in September 2007, I was visiting two friends — Rob and Ted — in Morro Bay, California. We're all landscape architects, and a larger bunch of us got together one evening to drink wine at Rob's house, and enjoy the charm of his family and his small California coastal town. Some of us had worked together at the same landscape architectural firm in Southern California in the 1980s, while others had graduated together from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Rob, Ted and I drove to nearby Los Osos the following morning, to Celia's Garden Café, a locally owned coffee shop. We sat outside to enjoy our lattes and scones, and two very cool ladies about my Mom's age sat next to us. We all started talking; we explained about being landscape architects, and how most of us had started our own firms, and that the weekend was a reunion of sorts for us. The ladies were quite interested in our work, and I'm pretty sure we gave them our business cards.

We also talked about my heritage, as I'm a member of Idaho's Nez Perce Tribe. (Later that day, Rob took Ted and me on a hike to visit some local Indian archaeological sites along the California coastline.)

Eventually, we got around to asking the ladies about their professions.

One of them told us that she once was a concert promoter for Bill Graham in the Bay Area, and that she had toured with the Grateful Dead and other 1960s and '70s-era rock bands. She talked about some of the bands that she had managed. One in particular was Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick. I was a huge fan of their music, and we talked about how I liked playing some of Jefferson Airplane's music on the piano. (I also was a piano major in college.)

She also mentioned having lived with Vince Guaraldi. She was surprised when I told her I loved his music.

I always think of this lady whenever I play any of Vince's pieces on the piano. (My favorite is "Manha de Carnaval.") I didn't get her name that day, and only learned that it was Gretchen after visiting this blog. I was hoping to run into her again during my next visit to Los Osos, but was sad to read in the Lost Live Dead blog that she had died in 2009. My condolences to her family and friends.

That was a memorable Labor Day weekend for me, to say the least.

By all accounts, Gretchen charmed everybody she met, and that certainly seems to have been the case here. I envy your chance encounter, Brian, and I'm grateful you got in touch.

It would be nice, one day, to hear you play "Manha de Carnaval."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blast from the Past

Along with all the lively chats I had with Guaraldi's colleagues and former sidemen, while working on my book — definitely the high point of the research process — additional excitement came from the discovery of fresh examples of the pianist's recorded output. Such albums came in two flavors: Either they were new to me — such as Woody's Herman's Anglo-American Herd, a way-obscure British LP on the Jazz Groove label, and the only known recording of the 1959 UK tour that included Guaraldi — or they were just plain new, as with Concord's The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-1980, which came out in 2008, when I was up to my eyeballs in notes, transcripts, photocopies of old newspapers, and all sorts of other ephemera. The latter finally allowed me to hear the exciting late-night set by Tjader's combo at the debut Monterey Jazz Fest, which did much to raise Guaraldi's profile as a ferocious pianist.

I know of other recordings that haven't yet seen the light of day; somewhere, the Fantasy/Concord vaults must contain the entire Brew Moore/Tjader septet performance that was recorded live at UC Berkeley on August 28, 1955. Thus far, only two isolated tracks have been released on two different Brew Moore albums ... talk about frustrating!

Meanwhile, Santa Claus brought Guaraldi fans a lovely present on December 11: The Cal Tjader Quintet: Live at Club Macumba, which presents two mostly up-tempo sets recorded at that San Francisco club in late 1956. The album has been released on the Acrobat Jazz label, and is readily available at Amazon and the usual outlets. The precise dates are unknown; Tjader's quintet was booked September 3-16 and then again October 2-28, so it's possible one set was recorded during the September run, while the second came in October. Or some other combination therein.

The original tapes are part of what is known as the Ackerman Collection, an archive of jazz recordings made during the 1950s and '60s, and assembled by broadcaster Ken Ackerman, beloved as the voice of the "Music Till Dawn" show on KCBS. As sometimes happens with such things, the collection was stored away and then mostly forgotten, until being "rescued" by San Francisco Traditional Jazz Federation members William Carter and Dave Radlauer. They, in turn, donated everything to Stanford University's Archive of Recorded Sound in November 2007. Cataloguing and restoration have allowed bits to be released commercially; this double-CD set is one such example. You can read more about the collection here; I note, with interest, that the listings include a KNBC radio broadcast of a set by the house band at the popular San Francisco restaurant Sabella's. That unit was fronted by Joe Marcellino, one of Guaraldi's two musical uncles.

So, all right already, you're thinking; how's the music?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A song by any other name...

The name always bothered me.

Guaraldi had an occasional tendency to recycle his own compositions, sometimes under new titles ... much to the hair-pulling frustration of discographers. "Ginza Samba," which popped up on 1958's The Cal Tjader/Stan Getz Sextet, is pretty much the same as plain ol' "Ginza," which debuted on 1956's Modern Music from San Francisco (Guaraldi's first album as a combo leader). "Air Music," a bouncy little track originally recorded for TV's A Charlie Brown Christmas — but not included on the soundtrack album — also is known as "Surfin' Snoopy," reflecting the tune's later use behind Snoopy's imaginative effort to hang paws on the end of his surfboard ... in a wading pool.

And then there's "Casaba," alternately known as "Jambo's."

"Casaba" opens 1964's Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete & Friends, the first of the jazz pianist's three collaborative albums with the Brazilian guitarist. The eight-minute tune, which reflects Guaraldi's sense of compositional whimsy, boasts sparkling interplay between his single-note runs and Sete's graceful guitar work. The tune resurfaced on 1970's Alma-Ville, the third of Guaraldi's albums for Warner Bros., and the last LP he recorded during his lifetime. This time, however, it was retitled — rather oddly — as "Jambo's." Percussionist Rubens Bassini highlights this latter-day version of the tune, which evokes the same bossa nova atmosphere that Sete had given it six years earlier.

But that name ... who or what was Jambo's?

Jimbo's would have made much more sense, given all the happy hours Guaraldi spent at the after-hours San Francisco club that took its name — Jimbo's Bop City — from John "Jimbo" Edwards, the cool cat who ran the place from 1950 to '65. I learned quite a lot about that venue while researching my book, with most of the information coming from filmmaker Carol P. Chamberland's excellent 1998 documentary, The Legend of Bop City, and an extensive article she wrote for the fall 1996 issue of California History.

Surely Guaraldi would have honored Edwards with a song, and surely the so-called "Jambo's" must have been that song. But how to prove as much?

This sounded like a job for the U.S. Library of Congress, and its musical composition copyright deposits. And, indeed, it was.

Click here to see a larger image.
On October 20, 1961, Guaraldi filed a copyright claim for an original composition titled "Jimbo's." The copyright deposit — the page of music filed to identify the song — displays a melody line that can be recognized instantly as "Casaba"/"Jambo's."

Two years later, almost to the day — on October 14, 1963 — Guaraldi filed a copyright claim for "Casaba." That page of music displays an identical melody line, allowing for minor variations on how long individual notes were to be held. "Casaba," then, was the title used when Guaraldi and Sete debuted the recorded version of the tune on their first collaborative LP.

Why, we wonder at this late remove, the change of heart, title-wise? And for that matter, why file a second copyright? What had changed, aside from the title?

The song's owner, that's what.

Prior to this most recent bit of research, I was under the impression that Guaraldi had issued only two songs — "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" and "Alma-Ville" — under the Friendship Music banner, the partnership he had formed with Trident club manager Frank Werber. An exhaustive examination of the Library of Congress' Guaraldi copyright registrations, however, reveals that Friendship also represented "Jimbo's" ... but not for long. By the time Guaraldi and Sete recorded their album, the song belonged to Felfar Music, one of the many shell entities that Fantasy Records' Sol and Max Weiss employed to conceal their control of the pianist's work. We'll never know why Guaraldi chose to re-title the song at that point, but he did.

Click here to see a larger image.
And he didn't immediately arrive at that new choice, either. The sheet music deposit for "Casaba" shows this to be a replacement title, written beneath a crossed-out "Cashasa." Cashasa — also spelled cachaca — is one of Brazil's most popular distilled spirits (390 million gallons consumed annually!), fermented from sugar cane juice and ripened to somewhere between 70 and 100 proof. The connection is obvious: Bola Sete, Brazil, bossa nova, cachaca. 

A casaba is a melon that hails from Turkey. Not much of a link there.

Why "Casaba," then, instead of "Cashasa"? Hey, we'll never know that answer, either.

Which brings us back to the title employed when Guaraldi re-recorded the tune on his final Warner Bros. album.

There is no Library of Congress copyright registration for "Jambo's," which suggests this might have been ... a typographical error on somebody's part. Guaraldi himself? The person responsible for the album liner notes and disc song titles? If the latter, you'd certainly think Guaraldi would have caught such a mistake, particularly since it seemed his intention, in 1970, to finally acknowledge Jimbo Edwards and his club.

My good research buddy Doug — who has assisted greatly with these copyright investigations — points to Guaraldi's occasionally tendency toward wordplay (as with "Coffee and Doe Nuts"), and suggests that perhaps the jazz pianist made a droll portmanteau word out of Jimbo's and jam (as in jazz jam), and arrived at "Jambo's." That's a much more romantic option than an unfortunate spelling mistake, but — as with Casaba and Cashasa — the truth remains lost to time.

But this much is certain: As originally composed and registered as "Jimbo's" in 1961, Guaraldi clearly intended this tune to honor John Edwards and Jimbo's Bop City ... which I long suspected and now can safely accept as fact.


Speaking of the album Alma-Ville...

I'm issuing a call to the Internet Group Mind: Let's see if anybody out there can help answer a few questions about this album.

1) Any thoughts of the significance of the title? (Both the LP title, and of course the song of the same name, which debuted back on 1962's Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus.)

2) Who is the kid in the photo?

3) Where was the picture taken ... and what are those things behind and beneath him?

Enquiring minds want to know...