Wednesday, April 29, 2020

More bits and bobs

Continuing our engaging journey through various newspaper archives...

Beloved San Francisco-area journalist Herb Caen's April 17, 1964, column -- appearing in the Santa Maria Times, among other outlets -- offered this update on producer Lee Mendelson's in-the-works TV special, A Boy Named Charlie Brown:

"It will have Vince Guaraldi playing the piano for Schroeder, [and] Cal Tjader beating the vibes as Snoopy."

Alas, we know that if Tjader was part of the special's original one-hour edit, his participation wound up on the cutting-room floor, when Mendelson trimmed it down to 30 minutes. And the little documentary still didn't sell.


Jazz columnist Richard Hadlock published a terrific (and lengthy) interview with Guaraldi in the San Francisco Examiner, on March 29, 1964. When asked about his influences, Guaraldi replied:

"I listen to everybody. There were really only three main departure points in jazz piano: James P. Johnson, Earl Hines and Bud Powell. They're all great, but Powell had the biggest influence on me. I also like the awkward grace of Thelonious Monk very much. And then there are Art Tatum and Duke Ellington: each in a class by himself, over and above the rest. I hear Chopin in Tatum, and the classical composer in Duke."

When asked if he got tired of playing "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" over and over and over again, Guaraldi insisted otherwise.

"Not at all. For one thing, we keep changing the way we do it. Basically, it's only a skeleton to improvise on, to play new chord uses on. Oh, when you do it six times a night, it can get to be a bore, but I'm not really tired of the tune. I play better on my own compositions anyway. The main thing is the feel you get when you're really communicating, and 'Cast Your Fate to the Wind' helps to reach people. The concert we did at the Museum of Art recently with Bola Sete, that had the happy feel to it."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bits and bobs

A five-year deep dive into a new jazz-related project — details of which can be found here — minimized my focus on All Things Guaraldi, so I've been playing catch-up during the past few weeks.

The first order of business was a fresh look at, an ever-more-useful resource site for those fond of serious research. Gaining access to so much archived information was invaluable during the research phase of my Guaraldi biography, although I was vexed by the absence of two key newspapers: the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner. Happily, the latter was among the many newspapers added at some point during the past decade (which is how much time has passed, since I last visited the site). The Examiner proved every bit as useful as I'd hoped, and all sorts of fresh and expanded entries will appear in my Guaraldi timeline, during the next few weeks.

(Vexingly, the Chronicle still has no comprehensive online archive: merely a partial one, with "selected articles" from 1985 to present. I can't imagine what they're waiting for, and I dearly wish they'd get on the ball!)

Meanwhile, have fun with these isolated tidbits:


On September 28, 1963, the San Rafael Independent-Journal headlined a story "Pianist Is Wanted For Throwing Drink At Woman." The incident took place at the Trident on August 30, where Guaraldi and his trio were nearing the conclusion of a three-month residency. He'd long developed a reputation for impatience with patrons who made too much noise while he and the trio performed, and things got out of hand that day. Three women were drinking at the bar, undoubtedly having a good time, and Guaraldi used the microphone to tell them to quiet down. Whether they did remains a matter of uncertainty, but — according to "victim" Dee Taylor — when the set concluded "Guaraldi appeared at the bar, cursed the girls and tossed a drink in [Taylor's] face. [He also] tossed a carte blanche machine at one of her friends."

Guaraldi was scheduled to appear before Marin Municipal Court's Judge Joseph G. Wilson on September 27, on charges of battery and disturbing the peace. Rather foolishly, he failed to show.

Hence the news brief's headline and opening sentence, with all their embarrassing publicity: "A warrant of arrest was issued yesterday for Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi."