Friday, December 26, 2014

A Jerry Granelli Christmas

As promised, longtime jazz drummer Jerry Granelli gladdened the hearts of many, many Canadian fans by touring his Charlie Brown Christmas show a bit more ambitiously this year. He and his trio — Simon Fisk, bass; and Chris Gestrin, piano — began their holiday showcase with a performance November 27 at Central United Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; and concluded with a gig December 16 at the Arden Theater in St. Albert, Alberta. 

By all accounts, a great time was had by all, as clearly indicated by these two reviews:

The St. Albert Gazette, December 13

The Edmonton Journal, December 14

A point of clarification, though, which I noticed in the coverage of both his 2014 concerts and those in 2013. A few writers who breezed too rapidly through their press notes identify Granelli as "the last surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio," which will come as a surprise to all the other surviving members of various Guaraldi combos. It's probably not even safe to say that Granelli is the only surviving member of the trio that recorded the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack LP, since the identities of that album's credited sidemen remain, ah, a point of discussion.

So let's just say that Granelli worked with Guaraldi for a couple of years in the early 1960s, most often joined by bassist Fred Marshall; and that Granelli is, indeed, the only surviving member of that particular trio.


You'll also want to take a look at this short December 4 news piece on Granelli done by CTV Ottawa...

...along with these two concert videos — with the trio performing "Linus and Lucy" and "Skating" — which were recorded during their December 7 performance at the Halifax Jazz Festival.

Sharp-eyed readers will note, on the latter site, a reference to the Granelli Trio's entire Halifax Jazz Festival performance having been recorded, for the December 20 episode of the CBC radio show The East Coast Music Hour, with David Myles. Unfortunately, the link to that program has been "geo-locked" and works only for folks who reside in Canada; attempts to click in from elsewhere — say, the United States — get re-directed to a default East Coast Music Hour page, with no indication of the Granelli material.

Savvy Internet users likely can work around that little issue, and the effort is worthwhile ... although perhaps not as much as avid fans might hope. The hour-long program features both concert excerpts and plenty of conversation between Granelli and Myles. While the latter is engaging and informative, I suspect plenty of listeners would have preferred more music and less chat. Still, we get to hear complete versions of "Linus and Lucy," "Christmas Time Is Here," "Skating," "Christmas Is Coming" and "O Tannenbaum." You'll note that Granelli departs from the "standard" Guaraldi arrangements, in some cases quite significantly; that's the nature of jazz, and — in my view, anyway — that makes these interpretations that much more interesting, and fun.

I'd like to think that, one day, CBC will broadcast the entire concert. I'd also like to think that Granelli might bring his tour to the States in 2015, so let's keep our fingers crossed!