Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A little of this, a little of that

Various scraps of information have been settling into my files for awhile now: none worthy of blog entries by themselves. But they're all interesting, if slight, and the (digital) stack has grown tall enough, that it seems appropriate to gather them into this single post.

To cases, then:

The first bit of news warrants a fist-bump for my good friend and radio colleague, Bill Buchanan, who has solved The Mystery Of The Ages: the identity of the "mystery track" on the second disc of the 2011 CD release, An Afternoon with the Vince Guaraldi Quartet. Contrary to what the liner notes claim, it most definitely is not "Autumn Leaves" ... even though Sound Hound and various other web sources now insist as much, having propagated the error (an issue I covered at length in this previous post). Bill and I discussed this situation at length, when I brought the song to his attention earlier this year; unknown to me, he kept chewing at it ... convinced that he recognized the melody from somewhere. Well, he was right; he did recognize it, and the penny finally dropped a few weeks ago.

The song is "Sunny Goodge Street," which made a splash in October 1965 on Fairytale, the second album from British singer Donovan. The tune took a few years to become a pop hit, and then was covered by the likes of Judy Collins and Tom Northcott. The arrangement performed by Donovan is the closest to Guaraldi's take, which you can hear by comparing Vince's version with Donovan's, thanks to this YouTube clip.

So, mystery solved. I'm forever indebted to Bill, and of course will take this opportunity to give his Davisville radio show another plug. Indeed, Bill and I just yesterday recorded our annual discussion of upcoming holiday movies: a show that should go live in about another week. Do give us a listen.

Further on the subject of albums, the TV series Mad Men was responsible for a Concord Records holiday release in late 2013, of music "from and inspired by" the show. The album was available only at Target stores, an "exclusivity" practice that I detest, and therefore did not publicize. But the good folks at Concord are making it a mass-market release this year, hence this plug. And why do we care? Because in addition to seasonal chestnuts such as Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song" and Rosemary Clooney's "White Christmas," the 12-song track list includes the Vince Guaraldi Trio's "Christmas Time Is Here." Now, I'm sure that everybody reading this blog already owns a recording or two — or three, or eight — of that song, but I'm always delighted when it pops up in a compilation intended to be emblematic of the 1960s. That's true fame!

This past June, Napa Valley Register journalist L. Pierce Carson wrote a lengthy, quite informative feature article on the history of the Robert Mondavi Winery's Summer Music Festival. The article interested me greatly, because I knew that Guaraldi and his combo had performed at that festival toward the end of his career. I had known of one date for sure: July 23, 1972, during the fourth annual festival. But Carson's article revealed that Guaraldi also had appeared at the second festival, likely a Sunday in July 1970 ... although, maddeningly, I couldn't nail down the date: not even after chats with folks at Mondavi. So that detail remains unspecified, but the article did include a delightful quote from festival founder Margrit Mondavi, who referenced the 1970 season and said, "I think we paid Vince Guaraldi all of $350 for the appearance." That raised a smile.

Guaraldi's one and only former student, jazz keyboardist Larry Vuckovich, has made something of a cottage industry of programs devoted to the music of his mentor. His Vince Guaraldi Tribute Ensemble has given several concerts throughout the greater Northern California area — most recently September 14, at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society — and bookings can be made at his web site. Take note of the fact that the combo's bassist is Seward McCain, who worked in Guaraldi's combo during his final years. And let's hope that Larry continues this practice for many more years!

A good friend and fellow jazz fan recently alerted me to an eBay auction for a bit of Guaraldiana that I'd not seen before: a 1964 four-track EP released on the UK's Vocalion label. The disc is enclosed in what is described as a "flipback seamed laminate fronted cover," and features four tracks: "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," "Samba de Orpheus," "The Days of Wine and Roses" and "Star Song." It's clearly a re-packaging of two Fantasy 45s, with the first two songs from Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus (issued on the Fantasy single 563X), and the latter two from his first collaboration with Bola Sete, Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends (Fantasy 580X). Needless to say, I placed a bid, fully expecting the action to be furious and spendy, if only at the last moment, as has been the case on the few occasions that somebody has offered a copy of the Fantasy single 593X, with "Linus and Lucy" and "Oh, Good Grief" (which is why I've not yet been able to obtain a copy of that one, drat the luck). However, to my considerable surprise, my opening bid proved to be the only bid, and the item landed in my hot little hands just a week later. The only other details of note: 1) Unlike most American 45s, the disc's center has an "insert" that allows for play on a regular turntable spindle, without the use of the wider adapter for singles; and 2) also unlike most American 45s from the same period, this "flipback cover" allows for actual liner notes. The essay is question is a small, very abridged chunk of Grover Sales Jr.'s liner notes from Fantasy's early compilation Guaraldi LP, Jazz Impressions ... in other words, nothing new. 

Jazz historian and blogger Steven A. Cerra wrote a lovely, lengthy review of my book that was posted back in late August. Steven and I exchanged several notes leading up to that nice piece, during which his fondness for Guaraldi became quite clear; indeed, he has his own "Guaraldi moment" from way back in the day, which will make its own fascinating blog entry here, in the not too distant future. So ... more to come, from Mr. Cerra.

Finally, I scored an interview last summer with Australia-based Koop Kooper, who holds forth from his own swanky "bachelor pad" as the impresario of Cocktail Nation, definitely one of the Web's premier podcasts for lovers of lounge/tiki music and the accompanying "mid-'60s modern" scene. Guaraldi's involvement with the spread of early bossa nova, thanks to his Black Orpheus album, made him the perfect topic for an installment of Koop's weekly show; we had a great time chatting about Guaraldi, and the result debuted in early September, as episode 326. That show is archived here; simply scroll through the podbean pages until you find the desired episode. Naturally, Koop played "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" during that particular show, but he needed no encouragement from me regarding Dr. Funk; Guaraldi tracks often pop up on Koop's show. I heartily encourage you all to subscribe.

That's it for now ... time for me to concentrate more thoroughly on several bigger stories that have been percolating for awhile (such as the aforementioned anecdote from Mr. Cerra).



Doug Anderson said...

Huzzah to Bill Buchanan for solving the mystery of the "Afternoon" mystery track! That's obviously the tune and, while the Vince version sounded vaguely familiar to me, the familiarity must have been a mental mirage, as I'm pretty sure that I wasn't previously familiar with "Sunny Goodge Street." I'm now off to correct the title in my iTunes library, happy to have that bit of Guaraldiana nailed down!

The Possum said...

This brief 2001 documentary, "The Making Of A Charlie Brown Christmas", features a segment on Vince, including a clip from "Anatomy Of A Hit" and color snippets of him performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1968. Vince's segment begins @ 10:15


Derrick Bang said...

Actually, that Monterey Jazz Festival clip first appeared in Lee Mendelson's 1969 TV special, "Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz," which also included considerable material from the earlier, never-aired 1964 documentary, "A Boy Named Charlie Brown." The new footage in the 1969 show includes that 15-second clip from Guaraldi's appearance at the 1968 Monterey Jazz Festival, but — contrary to the "overscore" insertion of "Linus and Lucy," to accompany the visual — Guaraldi and his combo almost certainly were playing something else. What's more vexing, though, is that the existence of this clip suggests that Guaraldi's entire set might have been recorded that day ... but, if so, the footage hasn't surfaced yet.

The Possum said...

Yes, I figured "Linus and Lucy" was an overscore . . . and I had the same thought as you: There's probably more footage of Guaraldi's '68 Monterrey appearance; maybe the whole set with original sound! Hmmm . . . I'm sure you'll be the first to tell us if it ever surfaces. :) I can't even locate the '69 TV special you cited. It's rather remarkable how elusive footage of Mr. G turns out to be, even in the age of Youtube!

Doug Anderson said...

Sadly, there may have been good reason for the use of overscore, and the lack of an extant recording:

“Monterey Jazz Festival: Fuzzy Sound and Very Little New Fury
by Eliot Tiegel (BILLBOARD, Oct. 5, 1968)

You had to look hard and listen even harder to discern something especially significant at the 11th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, Friday-Sunday (20-22) at the Fairgrounds.

The worst sound system imaginable was rented and it didn’t work the first two nights. And when it did work, the sound was distorted and fuzzy and a new sound made its debut at Monterey: the boos from the audience.
. . . .

Saturday afternoon’s traditional blues program fell short artistically of previous shows. . . . Someone goofed in booking the Vince Guaraldi Quartet for the blues program. The group’s efforts just scratched the surface of the material, and when guitarist Mel Brown joined in as a guest soloist, the bassist and drummer combined to slaughter Brown’s playing with lack of co-ordination.”

The Possum said...

I just read Tiegel's entire piece online . . . that's one blistering review! Ouch . . .