Saturday, September 25, 2021

Colin Bailey: Gentleman drummer

Colin Bailey, Monty Budwig and Vince Guaraldi, performing at The Trident — their
favored "home" for a few years — likely during the autumn of 1961.

“I learned so much from Vince: how to be a better jazz player. He made me play good. He inspired me. When I first started playing with him, I was in over my head; I was quite inexperienced with jazz, at that level. To play with him — that caliber of player, every night — was incredible. I got used to it. Vince improved my playing, just by playing with him and Monty [Budwig].”




It has been a rough summer.


We lost Jerry Granelli on July 20, and I just learned that Colin Bailey left us this past Monday, September 20. He’d been hospitalized with a case of pneumonia, after having recovered from Covid-19. At age 87, the poor guy never had a chance. 


He was the final link to Guaraldi’s first two classic trios. Monty Budwig died comparatively early, on March 9, 1992: well over a decade before I even considered writing a Guaraldi bio. Eddie Duran was next, on November 22, 2019; Dean Reilly went earlier this year, on March 9.


Colin was one of my most gracious interview subjects, and I loved chatting with him. He and Chuck Gompertz were the most candid, enthusiastic and helpful; I’m hard-pressed to determine which of the two I spent more time with, in person and on the phone … but I’m pretty sure it was Colin.


I first met him — after a few phone chats — on April 23, 2010, at his apartment in Martinez. It was a lunchtime visit; I stopped at a sandwich shop en route, and picked up a couple of subs. (I was armed with his preference.) I remember wondering, as I parked at the apartment complex, how a drummer could possibly rehearse at home, without driving half a dozen neighbors out of their minds. The answer was an eye-opener: He’d had a special sound-proofed “cubby” installed in one corner of his living room, with clear walls on two sides. It was just large enough for his kit, and his chair. (Such accommodations may be common among drummers, but it certainly was new to me.) We had lunch, chatted for several hours, and then he happily obliged when (of course!) I asked him to strut his stuff … which he did, for a breathtaking 20 minutes.


It was a marvelous afternoon, well worth battling Bay Area traffic during the drive home.


Colin was born in Swindon, England, and began playing drums at age 4; by 18, he was working with English name bands. He moved to Australia in the late 1950s, and became a staff drummer at Sydney’s TV Channel 9, which allowed him to work with visiting jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan. Colin subsequently joined pianist Bryce Rohde’s Australian Jazz Quartet, which soon was hired to tour the United States as the opening act for the Kingston Trio.


“My wife and I got green cards, and sold everything we had. We came over not knowing what would happen; we didn’t have a lot of money. We arrived in the States in 1961, and played San Francisco on the final weekend of the tour; it was a Friday night, May 26. Vince and Monty came by and heard me, and Vince said he liked the way I played, and invited me to sit in during their Monday night gig at the Jazz Workshop.


“The next week, I was at a drum shop, just hanging out, and the owner said ‘Hey, there’s a phone call for you.’ It was Vince, saying that he’d like to have me in his trio.


“I couldn’t believe my luck; I’d only been in the States for seven weeks, and here Vince was offering me a steady gig. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!”


Colin joined Vince’s trio in July 1961, replacing Benny Barth. Colin remained with Guaraldi until January 27, 1963, when he left to join Victor Feldman’s band in Hollywood. Even so, he and Monty continued to worked with Vince occasionally, during the rest of the 1960s.


I can’t begin to do justice to Colin’s subsequent career in this space, but his web site has an excellent biography.


Colin was present for — and recorded — Guaraldi’s two most significant songs: “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and “Linus and Lucy.”


Colin vividly remembered the sharp learning curve “Fate” forced upon him.


“It took a lot, getting to know the logistics of that song, from a drummer’s point of view. I had to learn how to get that cymbal bells Latin sound, and I had to do it with the ring at the end of the brush, because there wasn’t enough time to change brushes to sticks. I also had to use the floor toms — on which I usually keep the sticks or brushes, when I’m not using them — because I had a solo. To this day, I don’t remember how I managed to do that. It was one of the hardest logistical things I’ve ever had to deal with.”


Dean Reilly, Colin and Eddie Duran.
Colin and I stayed in touch, which wasn’t true of everybody I interviewed. A few months after my book was published, I had the opportunity to assemble a “dream team” for a private concert on June 30, 2012. I gathered Colin, Dean and Eddie — along with “youngster” Jim Martinez, on piano — for a fabulous 90-minute performance in front of an audience of 100 or so. Talk about a night to remember!

Colin and I lost touch when he and his wife moved south to Port Hueneme, in Ventura County, three years later.


The first appendix in my Guaraldi bio is a series of personal comments about him, from the many sidemen who played with him over the years. I concluded the several dozen warm observations with a brief, wistful remark from Colin, which seemed the perfect coda for the book. And it’s the perfect way to end this post.


“I wish [Vince] were still here, so we could play again.”

I wish all of them were still here.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Bits & bobs

Photo courtesy of Peggy Tillman
Ever more research resources continue to appear online, and each new discovery often adds a tantalizing nugget — or two, or 20 — to Guaraldi’s career. My most recent find is the California Digital Newspaper Collection, which seems devoted primarily to small, late 19th- and early 20th-century regional newspapers. But the database also includes a healthy number of high school and college newspapers, which delivered some nice nuggets. Several more stops on the Guaraldi/Sete Quartet’s October 1965 California college tour were added to my Guaraldi timeline, and — better yet — a few of the colleges publicized and reviewed the performances.

It’s always fun to see how Guaraldi was perceived at the time, and what he played, and — if interviewed — what he discussed.


The quartet performed at Sacramento City College on October 12. Five days earlier, the campus newspaper — The Pony Express — published an article to help promote the upcoming concert. Most of the information clearly was lifted from the publicity packet that the college received ahead of time, which must have been the source of this intriguing second sentence:


Pianist Guaraldi and Sete were ordered to combine their acts by “President” Dizzy Gillespie, after they appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962.


I possess copies of several Guaraldi publicity packets, which became more informative as the 1960s progressed; I’ve never before seen that statement. It’s true that Gillespie “discovered” Sete in the spring of 1962, while the latter was performing solo at San Francisco’s Sheraton Palace. And yes, Guaraldi and Sete both performed at the fifth annual Monterey Jazz Festival, in late September … but separately. Sete subsequently joined Gillespie’s band long enough to be part of the trumpeter’s next album, New Wave. Sete then flew to New York City and fronted his own trio at the Park-Sheraton Hotel for four months. When that gig concluded, he returned to San Francisco and began a seven-week solo stint at Sugar Hill. According to Fantasy Records’ then-“official” biography of Sete, written by jazz critic Russ Wilson, that’s where Guaraldi caught up with Sete in July 1963.


No mention of Gillespie’s helpful “edict,” although it certainly could have been an encouraging suggestion, at some point.


Further along in the same Pony Express article, the anonymous author injects a bit of opinion:


Guaraldi rose to national attention after KROY (a Sacramento station) disc jockey Tony Bigg played the “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” track from a Guaraldi recording of jazz impressions of the film Black Orpheus.


The recording was surprisingly accepted by the teenagers who make or break popular records.


You gotta love that second sentence. “Surprisingly”?


The article concludes with the following promise of things to come:


Recently, Guaraldi composed music for a Mass at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and he will soon complete another composition, “San Francisco Suite.”


Alas, we know that didn’t happen.


Photo courtesy of Peggy Tillman
The quartet’s performance was reviewed in The Pony Express — again anonymously — on October 21. The writer noted that the set list included “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” two “Jazz Impressions of Charlie Brown,” a “delightful” rendition of the Jimmie Rodgers tune “The World I Used to Know,” and a “swingy waltz” called “Skating.”

That’s the only reference I’ve found, to “The World I Used to Know”; Guaraldi never recorded it on an album. But the presence of “Skating” is more of an eye-opener, as it likely means that sparkling jazz waltz was a regular part of the entire tour’s set list … a couple of months before it debuted for the world in A Charlie Brown Christmas.


One of the tour’s final stops — perhaps the final stop — was at Citrus College, in Glendora, on October 29. The performance was reviewed on November 5 in the Citrus College Clarion, and journalist Frank Cernelli combined that coverage with an interview with Guaraldi.


The lengthy article includes these tidbits:


[Guaraldi] also plays, but not professionally, the guitar and organ, and is building a harpsichord in his spare time. “I like putting things together,” he declared.




After finishing a round of 26 California college concerts, [Guaraldi] will tour Oregon. He is also considering the possibility of touring England early next year.




Summing up his musical philosophy, [Guaraldi] said, “I strive for freedom of musical expression, and clarity of thought.”


That final remark is a bit … well … pompous, and seems to have more to do with Zen meditation than performing jazz. But, whatever.


Building a harpsichord, eh? Could be true; if so, he may even have used it during local gigs.


He may well have toured Oregon in November 1965; I have absolutely no information about his movements that month. (I need to find a comparable Oregon digital newspaper collection!) But he definitely never made it to England in early 1966, or any time thereafter.

And that’s it for now. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Vinyl madness 2021

Well, they clearly see us coming.

The "vinyl variants" of A Charlie Brown Christmas must be selling quite well each holiday season, because this promotional gimmick has been going strong since 2015. By my count, we've seen slightly more than two dozen, with more to come this year.

I'm curious ... has anybody reading this blog faithfully purchased all of them? If so, let me know; I'd love to acknowledge your devotion.


The fun begins this year in an unexpected manner, with Craft's (believe it or not) pumpkin-shaped orange vinyl edition of its recently issued soundtrack for It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It's expected to ship September 17. (I'm pleased to see they found a clever way to include the liner notes I wrote for that release.)

Moving on to A Charlie Brown Christmas, Wal-Mart's offering -- a red glitter vinyl disc packaged in silver foil -- is available now:

Barnes & Noble will offer an exclusive limited-edition picture disc, packaged in silver foil, and with an embossed jacket, expected to be available on October 1:

Urban Outfitters is unleashing a clear vinyl disc with red and green splatters, also scheduled for October 1 (Actually, this is merely new packaging; it's the same "exclusive LP" as 2020, but in a foil sleeve instead of last year's lenticular sleeve):

Target has a metallic gold swirl vinyl, along with a new art poster. It's also available now:

And you have to love the peppermint vinyl soon to be available from RSD Essentials, due out October 15:

Newbury Comics also will unveil their variant on October 15, with green swirl vinyl:

Craft will hit us with a "glitter-infused clear vinyl" LP, scheduled for October 1. But I can't help quoting the caveat the label includes, in the description of this one: "Please note that vinyl additives such as glitter may, but should not, affect sound quality." 

Is this what we've come to? "Exclusive" LPs that aren't (necessarily) designed to be played?


In addition to these vinyl variants, numerous retailers also will offer the standard LP — which is to say, plain black vinyl — in a "silver foil" edition with the foil "wrapped" onto the outer sleeve, and the Peanuts characters embossed. This short video gives a better sense of how that will look, than any of the still photos I've found.

And here's a late entry from, in "red and green marble vinyl" ... although -- be advised -- the price point on this one is much higher than the others.

This is all I know about at the moment, but it's entirely possible that one or more other outlets will jump on board, as autumn arrives. If so, I'll add them to this post ... so keep checking back.