Friday, October 18, 2019

The Eagle has landed

As promoted in an earlier post, Vince Guaraldi was one of three recipients of this year’s National Music Council (NMC) American Eagle Awards, which were presented July 18 as a highlight of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) summer activities in Nashville, Tennessee. Guaraldi was honored alongside famed funk musician George Clinton, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

I’d been invited by NMC Director David Sanders to give a brief tribute to Guaraldi, but — alas — family responsibilities precluded my participation. But Vince nonetheless was fêted well by famed solo pianist George Winston, also a longtime Guaraldi fan; and Andy Thomas, director and co-producer of the 2009 documentary, The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi.

I recently had an opportunity to enjoy the ceremony via a recording, and therefore can offer a full report on the portion that concerns Guaraldi.

David Sanders and Gary Ingle
The event began with a short presentation by Sanders and NMC President Gary Ingle, who briefly explained the Council’s mission statement. “We believe that every student in our nation should have an education in music and the arts,” they emphasize, adding that “All creators should be fairly compensated for their work.” Both statements prompted vigorous applause.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was honored first, in a segment introduced by Grammy Award-winning Nashville singer-songwriter Liz Rose. The segment concluded with a vibrant performance by young musicians, after which the podium was taken by NMC board member Charlie Sanders, outside counsel for the Songwriters Guild of America.

He noted that the NMC board has been increasingly troubled by the fact that, for the most part, the American Eagle Award hasn’t been granted posthumously to “giants in our community who were denied the gift of long life.

“Tonight,” he continued, “we’re here to try to correct that record a little bit, by singling out one creator whose contributions are of such magnitude — as a songwriter, composer and artist, and as an influencer on behalf of American music — that his career cries out for recognition. And the fact that it hasn’t been recognized, to this point, by the number of people who have truly benefited from his work, is not fair.

“And we’re going to correct that.

“There’s no place on the planet that the music of Vince Guaraldi has not reached. It would be easier for me to ask, Who hasn’t been affected by the music of Peanuts and Charlie Brown, than those who have. Successive generations of children, in the tens of millions, have been introduced to American jazz as a result of his genius; and equally importantly, by the joy and warmth of his incredibly distinctive artistic touch, and the touch that WWII veteran Charles Schulz and the entire Peanuts team brought to their craft and their art.

“Vince Guaraldi left us prematurely, in 1976. But his music not only remains; its legion of devotees, young and old, continues to grow year by year. 

“But please: Don’t take my word for it. It’s my absolute privilege and honor to introduce one of our great music instrumentalists and composers. He has inspired fans and musicians alike with his singular solo acoustic piano touch for more than 40 years, while selling an astonishing 15 million records as a solo pianist. His impressionistic style of what he calls ‘folk piano’ came to define the famous Windham Hill sound. He’s one of the great fans and interpreters of Vince Guaraldi’s music.

“Please join me in welcoming Montana’s own George Winston.”