Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Jolly Guaraldi Holiday 2015

Good heavens; the holiday season approaches yet again! That means it's time to investigate the many Guaraldi-themed concerts taking place, most of which (of course!) are tied in to his music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I traced the history and growth of this delightful tradition in 2012, in a blog entry which I encourage the curious to read. Meanwhile, this new post will serve as a clearinghouse for any and all late 2015 concerts that come to my attention. I'll add to this schedule as new information becomes available, so do check back on occasion.

As has been the case for several years now, the most ambitious tour news comes from Concord recording artist David Benoit, who once again is taking his Charlie Brown Christmas show on the road. He's touring this time with jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit, with whom he recorded their new holiday album, Believe. Their schedule kicks off November 28 at New York's Rockville Center, and concludes December 20 at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, with stops along the way in Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and several other venues across the United States. We caught Benoit's 2011 performance in Livermore, California, and I can report that it's a great show. It's also tremendously sweet, since Benoit and his team work with a children's choir that is local to each stop. Check his website for details.

For those wanting a bit more detail about Benoit's involvement with the Peanuts franchise, this short interview is worth a look.

Benoit once again is grabbing the lion's share of headlines in the States, but our Canadian neighbors will enjoy the return of the season's most historic booking. Drummer Jerry Granelli, who worked as a member of Guaraldi's trio in the 1960s, will headline performances of the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas with his own trio. They'll perform nine times, starting November 28 at Calgary's Central United Church; and concluding December 18, at the Arts & Culture Center in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Granelli first presented this show a few times in 2013, and the results were quite popular (no surprise there). He'll again be joined by Simon Fisk (bass) and Chris Gestrin (piano). Check his website for details.

I must — of course! — mention my good buddy Bill Carter. Followers of this blog know that Guaraldi's Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass recently was revived at Carter's First Presbyterian Church of Clark's Summit, Pennsylvania. Well, Carter has a few more choice events up his sleeve. He and his Presbybop Christmas Eve Band will present an afternoon concert titled A Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas Sunday, December 13, at the First Presbyterian Church of Hawley, also in Pennsylvania. This will be followed by Presbybop's annual Jazz Christmas Eve concert at Carter's First Presbyterian Church, which I'm told also will focus on Guaraldi's music from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Details.

The Heather Pierson Quartet — Pierson on piano, Joe Aliperti on sax, Shawn Nadeau on bass, and Craig Bryan on drums — has scheduled a mini-tour of (thus far) six shows devoted to A Charlie Brown Christmas. They kick off December 4 in Eaton, New Hampshire, and conclude December 17 in Laconia, New Hampshire, with stops in Massachusetts and Maine. Check her website for details.

The Cartoon Christmas Trio doesn't concentrate solely on music from A Charlie Brown Christmas; they also pepper their performances with tunes from other animated holiday shows, such as Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Their album is a kick; give it a listen.) They have seven shows scheduled thus far, starting December 5 in Newark, Delaware; and concluding December 20 in Wilmington, Delaware; with other shows in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Check their website for details.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Contest time!

The Peanuts comic strip celebrated its 65th anniversary on October 2, and A Charlie Brown Christmas will mark its 50th anniversary on December 9. On top of which, we've got this modest big-screen movie debuting November 6.

Add the impending proximity of the holiday season, and you know what that means: plenty of new and "freshened" merchandise, in a variety of formats.

Guaraldi fans whose taste crosses over to pianist David Benoit — and it absolutely should — won't want to miss Believe, his new album collaboration with jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit. It includes plenty of material from A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the instrumental highlight is a lengthy trio medley — with bassist David Hughes and drummer Jamey Tate — that features "Surfin' Snoopy" (aka "Air Music"), "Christmas Is Coming," "Greensleeves" and "O Christmas Tree." On the gentler side, Monheit's poignant handling of "Christmas Time Is Here" is backed by the All-American Boys Chorus (standing in for the young members of the St. Paul's Church Choir, who supplied Charlie Brown and the gang's singing voices in the TV special). The arrangement is pure Guaraldi, as is the case with an equally charming cover of "My Little Drum." The album also features Monheit's touching reading of "Just Like Me," the 2005 Benoit/Lee Mendelson original that serves as an emotional bookend to "Christmas Time Is Here."

Speaking of the aforementioned new 3D film from the talented folks at Blue Sky (the geniuses behind the Ice Age franchise and several other CGI hits), its soundtrack hit retail shelves on October 23. Although most of the original underscore comes from veteran film composer Christoph Beck, the album also includes three classic Vince Guaraldi Trio recordings: "Linus and Lucy," "Skating" and "Christmas Time Is Here."

Moving to the pure Guaraldi front, today (November 1) marks the debut of Concord Records' Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Gift Pack, which includes the following:

• The original 11-track Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack
Peanuts Portraits
• A reproduction of the children's book version of A Charlie Brown Christmas
• Four double-sided postcards featuring various members of the Peanuts gang

This item is a Walmart exclusive.

(Sharp-eyed fans will recognize the postcard images as smaller versions of the mini-posters originally packaged with Fantasy Records' first-run LP pressings of Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown.)

But wait; there's more! Today also marks the debut of three colored vinyl, retailer-exclusive editions of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack:

• Red and green vinyl, available only at F.Y.E. stores
• Red vinyl, available only at Urban Outfitters
• Red and white vinyl, available only at Newbury Comics

And, of course, the existing green vinyl version remains available to all via Amazon.

So ... how many of those LPs will you scramble to find?

Looking a little further forward, November 20 is the release date of Concord's four-LP box set version of The Definitive Vince Guaraldi. The 31 songs from 2009's double-CD have been pressed onto four LPs, each housed in a different art sleeve. The package also includes a 12-by-24-inch poster of Guaraldi, original liner notes by noted jazz historian Doug Ramsey, a reproduction of the promotional cardboard "Vince mustache" that was handed out to patrons of his 1960s club gigs, and a 16-page booklet laden with vintage photos, club ads, newspaper articles and other ephemera from back in the day. (Many of the latter items come from the extensive library of archival materials I assembled, while researching my Guaraldi bio.) Not to be missed!

But wait, I hear you cry ... isn't this post headlined Contest Time?

Indeed yes, and I have not one, but two contests for you. 

Concord Records and JazzTimes magazine are running a sweepstakes that gives everybody a chance to win the four-LP Definitive Vince Guaraldi box set. That's right, just one winner ... so the question is, Are ya feelin' lucky? Check it out here.

Be advised: You'll need to establish a free JazzTimes user account, and then log into that account, in order to enter online. (All other forms of entry are void.)

This sweepstakes ended November 15, 2015.

But hey: You don't need to do anything special to enter our exclusive Impressions of Vince contest. Two lucky winners will be sent copies of Concord's Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Gift Pack.

(This contest also concluded on November 15, and the answers now have been supplied below.)

All you need to is correctly answer the following questions:

1. Because A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted in 1965, it featured many characters who soon faded into obscurity and then weren't seen for decades thereafter. Name one. [Many possible answers here: Violet, the original Patty, 5 and his twin sisters 3 and 4]

2. Similarly, Charles M. Schulz hadn't yet introduced some of the strip's most popular characters when this show was made. Name one popular Peanuts character not seen in A Charlie Brown Christmas. [Again, several possible answers: Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Franklin, Woodstock and Rerun, among others]

3. Lucy never eats December snowflakes, even though Linus insists "They look ripe to me." Lucy tells us that she waits until which month? [January]

4. What will Linus do with his blanket when he grows up? [Make it into a sport coat]

5. What does Lucy want for Christmas? [Real estate]

6. In the school stage dance scene, what instrument does Pig-Pen play? [Bass]

7. Snoopy is called upon to imitate several animals for the school play. Which of the following is not one of them? a) sheep; b) goat; c) penguin; d) cow. [Goat]

8. How many tufts of green growth does the little tree have when Charlie Brown and Linus first spot it? [Three]

9. How many different ways does Schroeder play "Jingle Bells" for Lucy? [Three]

10. What color is the one ornament that Charlie Brown puts on his tree, which causes it to flop over? [Red]

Email your entries to derrickbang@gmail.com. Please, one entry per person. Winners will be selected randomly from entries with perfect scores. In the event nobody gets 100%, winners will be selected from entries with the most correct answers. 

Congratulations to our two winners: Doug and Bill. You know who you are...!