Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Jolly Guaraldi Holiday 2020

It's time once again for this annual round-up of Guaraldi-themed concerts taking place between now and the end of the year, most of which (of course!) are tied in to his music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I've been concerned about this year's schedule, for obvious reasons. With the options for live performance venues -- and audiences willing to attend -- so limited, I feared this would prove to be a woefully short list. But the news isn't all bad; numerous individuals have pivoted by offering streaming concerts or YouTube options ... along with, to my surprise, a fair number of actual in-person performances. So while the expanding momentum established during the past few years has stalled, you'll still find a respectable number of groups and individuals below, all keeping Guaraldi's musical torch aloft. And we can hope that things return to normal next year.

I traced the history and growth of this delightful tradition back in 2012, with a modest schedule that now seems quaint. This year's post will serve as a clearinghouse for any and all 2020 concerts that come to my attention. Bear in mind that some of these listings are likely to be fluid; it's best to keep an eye on the artist and/or venue web site, to determine if a hoped-for live presentation has shifted to streaming-only. 

It's also highly likely that some of these live events will be canceled, perhaps even at the last moment; be sure to keep checking with the venue.

As always, I'll add to this schedule as new information becomes available, so you'll want to check back frequently. Additionally, some of the streaming performances will be available after the fact, so keep an eye on older entries, as the month proceeds.

• Let's start with something quite different: Jazz pianist Jody Nardone will present a three-week course on the life, compositions and piano stylings of Vince Guaraldi, on behalf of the Nashville Jazz Workshop; he'll draw anecdotes and other material from my very own Guaraldi biography (and thanks for the shout-out, Jody!). Sessions will take place on three consecutive Mondays: November 30, December 7 and 14. Details. He and his trio also will present their fifth annual Charlie Brown Christmas: A Tribute to Vince Guaraldi concert on Sunday, December 13, at the Music City Wine Garden, in Nashville, Tennessee. Details. Finally, he'll perform some of Guaraldi's holiday hits during a virtual "Jazz from Home" show, which will go live on December 16, and remain available through the 25. Details.

• The Malcolm Granger Trio — Granger, piano; Rich Hill, bass; and Michael Dunford, drums — recorded a selection of highlights from A Charlie Brown Christmas, traditionally performed at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, Massachusetts. This mini-concert can be viewed via YouTube.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Vinyl madness

As has become tradition for several years now, Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Christmas will get plenty of vinyl action in the next several weeks, starting with a genuine treat.

As a tie-in for Record Store Day's 10th annual Black Friday event -- that's November 27, the day after Thanksgiving -- Craft Recordings is releasing a 7-inch single on green vinyl. Side A will feature the familiar vocal version of "Christmas Time Is Here," performed by young members of the Bay Area's St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Side B, however, is something a surprise: the "Alternate Vocal Take 5" of the same song, previously available only as one of the bonus tracks on the (ahem) somewhat notorious 2006 digital re-issue of the iconic album, which "horrified" so many people, because the re-mastering engineer had the temerity to slightly modify some of the tracks, so they could be heard as originally recorded by Guaraldi's trio. Alas, despite such good intentions, the maneuver proved a PR disaster -- people wanted the album to sound just like it had when originally released in 1965, thank you very much -- and Fantasy quickly "corrected" this "error" with subsequent pressings, and even allowed folks to send in their "defective" discs for replacement. (The full story can be read roughly midway down this web page.)


Only 5,000 copies of this single have been pressed, and they'll be available only on November 27; you can't pre-order, or request your local record store to hold a copy. It'll be first come, first served.

As for the album itself, we'll once again see a variety of colored and picture-vinyl releases, along with another novelty: a lenticular LP sleeve. Here's the rundown:

• Craft Recordings: a lenticular sleeve with explosive "snowball" vinyl

• Urban Outfitters: a lenticular sleeve with red and green "splattered" vinyl

• Cracker Barrel: a lenticular sleeve with half-red, half-green vinyl

• Walmart: a lenticular sleeve with blue snowflake vinyl

• Barnes & Noble: a lenticular sleeve with double-sided picture vinyl

• Target: a lenticular sleeve with solid green vinyl

A few of these vinyl variants have been released previously -- such as Walmart's blue snowflake pattern — but the lenticular sleeves are new ... so you'll just have to buy them again!

(Have fun!)

Friday, November 6, 2020

Big man on campus

Back on February 1, I was contacted by Alec Huntley, a graduate student at the University of North Texas (UNT), who was working toward his doctoral degree in jazz. He had decided to write his upcoming dissertation on Guaraldi’s specific idiomatic musical techniques: the first time (to my knowledge) that Dr. Funk has been accorded such scholarly attention.

Alec already had spent considerable time with my Guaraldi bio, blog and companion web pages; he was — at that point — in the process of compiling a master chronological spreadsheet of Guaraldi’s entire recorded output, with an eye (and ear) toward revealing trends in the way he developed his signature sound during his lifetime. That was a challenging task, since many of the later (posthumous) digital releases are bereft of recording dates.

Alec asked if I’d be willing to help with that and any other questions, general insights, leads or suggestions; of course I agreed immediately and enthusiastically. (Actually, he had me before I finished reading his note’s second sentence.) We subsequently began an occasional correspondence; I also put Alec in touch with George Winston, who became just as helpful (which didn’t surprise me at all). Alec and I also “met” during a lengthy Zoom chat; he was armed with lots of questions and comments, which I did my best to address.

He completed the first draft of what became The Guaraldi Sound: The Musical Devices that Characterize Vince Guaraldi’s Improvisational and Compositional Style on October 1. He hoped I’d be willing to read it, to ensure no errors had crept into the manuscript; again, I cheerfully agreed. (This was strictly a factual read-through; Alec made it clear that I was not to act as a copy-editor, as he’d get that sort of feedback when the manuscript was presented to his committee members.) In fact, I wound up reading it three times, during the next two weeks, as he sent along second and third drafts.

He submitted the final draft to his committee members on October 23, and then presented it during a formal lecture/recital on October 26. Normally, this would have taken place in a lecture hall filled with people, but COVID restrictions prevented that; the event instead was livestreamed to any and all interested folks. Happily, the event also was recorded, and Alec just posted the entire presentation on YouTube.

(Alec’s wife Katie drew the illustration. The Woodstock-ish character is the UNT mascot, Scrappy the Eagle.)

As Alec notes there, the dissertation also will be available to all when published, and he’ll include a link to it at the same Facebook page; I’ll also add that link to this post, when accessible.

I was quite honored to have been entrusted to help Alec, and I’m delighted that his thorough research and insightful analysis are shortly to become available to the general public. On a personal note, I’m thrilled by the number of footnotes that source my various Guaraldi-related endeavors. Dissertations are as “forever” as the Internet, and it’s exciting to know that future scholars, looking into Guaraldi’s career, will find my modest contribution acknowledged. 


UPDATE: Alec's dissertation has been published, and can be read here.