Thursday, July 17, 2014

Birthday greetings

Dr. Funk would have turned 86 today: a ripe old age, but certainly not prohibitive, in terms of further sharing his talent. Plenty of jazz elder statesmen have continued to record and perform well into their 80s; it's nice to think, in an alternate universe somewhere, that Guaraldi is doing the same.

Concord/Fantasy hasn't let the moment pass; the label has acknowledged this birthday milestone with a spanking-new vinyl release of Guaraldi's career-making album, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. The LP jacket front is virtually indistinguishable from the album's later re-christening as Cast Your Fate to the Wind, following that song's chart-rising success and Grammy Award. Even the catalog number is identical: Stereo 8089/Fantasy 3337 ("High Fidelity").

The jacket back also appears the same, down to the "other Fantasy albums of interest" listed beneath Ralph J. Gleason's liner notes. Closer scrutiny, however, will reveal the Concord Music Group address in tiny print at the very bottom, along with a new catalog number (OJC-437) at the upper right.

The LP contents are identical to those pressed in 1962, and — unlike other recent LP re-issues of Guaraldi albums — the vinyl is basic black. (Alas, no fun color.) has cited Guaraldi as its "Jazz Musician of the Day," and you can check out this honor here. The AllAboutJazz page, in turn, links to an essay I wrote many years ago, long before I decided to embark on a full-blown biography; you'll also find a modest selection of photos.

That appears to be it, in terms of acknowledgment by the wider world ... unlike last year, when KMUW 89.1 in Wichita, Kansas, devoted an installment of its award-winning show, Global Village, to Guaraldi. (I guess an 86th birthday isn't quite as exciting as an 85th. Those multiples of 5 always seem more significant.)

As for my own sentiments, on this day ... I can't really do better than what I wrote a year ago, so I'll refer you back to that post.

But I will add this: We can take enormous pleasure in the fact that Guaraldi's music continues to resonate just as much, 365 days after his previous birthday. Indeed, there's no shortage of fresh news about our favorite Italian leprechaun, as followers of this blog know. Nor does Concord show any signs of slowing down, in terms of CD and LP re-issues.

I recall being told, by drummer Mark Rosengarden, that Guaraldi's tipple of choice, during the latter part of his life, was Courvoisier. Acknowledging that this brand of cognac is something of an acquired taste, I nonetheless encourage the faithful Out There to raise a glass of the stuff, and join a heartfelt toast to the man whose small hands belied his massive jazz chops. May his celestial star ever brighten.

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