Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Thanksgiving comes early this year!

Big news, gang.


We’ve all held our breath since late last year, hoping that the reception for the Definitive, Super Deluxe Charlie Brown Christmas — and the recently discovered, isn’t-it-fabulous original session recordings that produced a superior soundtrack for Great Pumpkin -- would translate, moving forward, into additional releases from Guaraldi’s Peanuts canon.


It has come to pass.


October 20 will see the debut of the full soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, just in time for the 1973 special’s 50th anniversary: 13 themes and cues used in the show, along with nine never-before-heard bonus and alternative tracks. The album will be available in three states: CD, vinyl and digital download.


Check out the official press release here.


Pre-order the CD from MVD here.


Pre-order the standard (black vinyl) LP from MVD here.

Pre-order the above CD or LP from Amazon here and here.

Pre-order the special Record Store Day jelly bean green vinyl LP here.

Pre-order the Target exclusive cranberry vinyl LP here.

The track list:


Show score:

    1. Charlie Brown Blues

    2. Thanksgiving Theme

    3. Thanksgiving Theme (Reprise)

    4. Peppermint Patty

    5. Little Birdie

    6. Thanksgiving Interlude

    7. Is It James or Charlie?

    8. Linus and Lucy

    9. Fife & Drums Theme

    10. Charlie Brown Blues (Reprise)

    11. Thanksgiving Interlude (Reprise)

    12. Thanksgiving Theme (2nd Reprise)

    13. Thanksgiving Theme (3rd  Reprise)


Bonus/Alternate tracks:

    14. Thanksgiving Theme (Alternate)

    15. Peppermint Patty (Bonus Mix)

    16. Linus and Lucy (Bonus Mix)

    17. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate take 2, 4, and 6)

    18. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate take 10)

    19. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate take 14)

    20. Is It James or Charlie? (Bonus mix with Whistling)

    21. Clark and Guaraldi

Preview Track 16 here.

Preview Track 20 here.


The recording features Vince Guaraldi, piano, keyboards and vocals; Tom Harrell, trumpet and brass arrangements; Chuck Bennett, trombone; Seward McCain, electric bass; and Mike Clark, drums. The album is produced by Sean and Jason Mendelson, re-mixed by Terry Carleton at Bones and Knives, and restored and mastered/re-mastered by Vinson Hudson.


Avid Guaraldi fans have long regarded this Emmy Award-winning TV special as a favorite, which is no surprise; the show is wall-to-wall music, bouncing between acoustic and electric keyboards, going silent only during Linus’ gentle sermon about the first Thanksgiving (a speech almost as eloquent as the one he delivers in Charlie Brown Christmas).


That sequence aside, Guaraldi was allowed to stretch and supply longer cues, each one beginning as the previous one fades. The show boasts three new tunes, starting with a lyrical title theme constructed from acoustic piano filigrees that evoke the keyboard cascades in “Skating.” An impudent cue titled “Is It James or Charlie?” adds a bit of James Brown sass to the mix; and the stand-out newcomer is Guaraldi’s vocal on “Little Birdie,” played at length when Snoopy — tasked with setting up the outdoor dining arrangements — wrestles with a basketball net, a garage door, a ping-pong table and an impressively sentient folding chair. 


Returning cues include one of Guaraldi’s best arrangements of “Linus and Lucy,” with brass adding a spirited counterpoint to the primary theme, and also shading a new four-chord climb at the end of each verse’s fourth measure: heard while Snoopy orchestrates the Thanksgiving “dinner” of buttered toast, popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans and ice cream parfaits. “Peppermint Patty” gets a quiet, leisurely arrangement on electric keyboard: perfectly echoing the girl’s coquettish side, notably when she flirts with Charlie Brown over the phone, while inviting herself — and Marcie and Franklin — to a party that doesn’t yet exist. 


The show’s final reprise of the title theme introduces a sparkling brass counterpoint: a terrific conclusion to a half-hour of solid combo jazz.

What’s not to love?

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Affectionate nods

Fellow Guaraldi fan Scott alerted me to a pair of just-discovered tributes, which have eluded our sharp little eyes until now (rather surprising, since neither is recent).

Guaraldi's combo and Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison occasionally appeared together for not quite half a year, from December 1972 through April 1973. These gig dates are certain:

• December 1 — The Alhambra Theater, Sacramento, at a benefit to save that venerable movie palace (an effort that failed, alas)
• December 15 — Berkeley Community Theater
• February 5 — The Lion's Share, San Anselmo
• April 27-28 — Cal-Neva Lodge, North Lake Tahoe

The Lion's Share appearance was broadcast live by KPFA; bootlegs circulate freely, including here.

Unfortunately, as I note in my book, the collaboration proved rocky, at best.

“They went down to Santa Monica once,” Guaraldi's girlfriend Gretchen Katamay recalled. “Vince told me later that he had driven up to the venue, looked at the marquee, and was shocked to discover that his name wasn’t included.

“Another time, Vince was going to record an album with Van. Everybody was sitting in the studio, waiting for Van; an hour and a half went by, so Vince got up and walked out. It was ‘leader’s attitude.’ Even though Vince had it himself, he wasn’t going to put up with it from somebody else. It wasn’t that important.”

Morrison's “rock star” attitude notwithstanding, he obviously thought back fondly on the partnership, as the decades passed. His’s 2016 album, Keep Me Singing, includes “In Tiburon,” a poetic ode that name-checks the hungry i, the Trident, the Cliff House, Lenny Bruce, Chet Baker and Jack Kerouac, among others. 

Dr. Funk gets his own line, sung twice: “Vince Guaraldi would play ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind’ in the distance.”

Full lyrics can be found here.


This one's a bit unusual.

In February 2012, poet, essayist and literary critic Robert Pinsky — former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the U.S. Library of Congress — teamed with Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist/composer Laurence Hobgood, for an album titled PoemJazz. Pinsky “performs” his poetry with melody and rhythm, in a harmonic/counterpoint “conversation” with Hobgood’s keyboard work: a style that hearkens back to the 1950s beat poets. 

One of the album tracks, “Ginza Samba,” begins as an ode to the saxophone, and then expands into a wealth of poetic imagery. 

We all know that "Ginza Samba" — sometimes called just plain-vanilla "Ginza" — is one of Guaraldi's early compositions. And, indeed, the tune can be recognized during this March 11, 2013, performance at Boston University; Pinsky is joined by Hobgood, piano; Stan Strickland, saxes; and John Lockwood, bass. Pinsky acknowledges this collaboration's origins: "This next poem, 'Ginza Samba,' is taken from the name of an actual jazz tune." (No, he didn't cite Guaraldi by name.)

That said, the version on the 2012 album doesn't sound at all like Guaraldi's tune.

Pinsky subsequently published the piece in a 2014 collection titled Ginza Samba: Selected Poems. (The full text of the title poem can be read here.) He and Hobgood frequently performed the piece thereafter, and I suspect the latter's keyboard accompaniment varied each time; after all, that's the nature of jazz.

You just never know when — or where — another reference to Guaraldi will pop up...

Friday, February 17, 2023

Bits & bobs: Winter 2023

Late last year, I spent a delightful couple of hours chatting with Bill Carter, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. As some of you know, he's also an accomplished jazz pianist who heads the swingin' Presbybop Quartet, making him a member of the small but wonderfully active "jazz praise" musicians' network.

Longtime followers of Guaraldi and this blog will recall that Bill spent a year getting ready for his church's 50th anniversary celebration of Guaraldi's Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass, which resulted in a marvelous September morning in 2015, as I related here.

Bill also has spent the last few years writing a book, Thriving on a Riff: Jazz and the Spiritual Life, soon to be published by Broadleaf Books. Partly as a means of spreading the word about this project, and partly because he so enjoys discussing the intersection of music (notably jazz) and religion, he was encouraged to "enhance his media presence." He therefore began a fortnightly podcast, The Spirit of Jazz, which has been going strong since last August.

(By now you must have realized that Bill is one of those individuals who rarely pauses to eat or sleep.)

He invited me to be a guest for one episode, but — because our conversation continued at considerable length — he wound up with enough material for two full episodes. (Neither of us can be accused of having little to say.) They are:

While you're visiting, be sure to check out his other episodes; they're all quite engaging (just like Bill himself).


Many months have passed, since the two new releases of Guaraldi's Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus were announced, back in September. So many months, in fact, that you've likely forgotten that Craft Recordings' Small Batch One-Step Pressing LP finally will be released next Friday, February 24. (New liner notes are supplied by someone I know fairly well.)

Orders can be placed here, or via Amazon, or — better still — request the album at your local brick-and-mortar music store, to help keep them in business!

Friday, January 6, 2023

Chart success: 2022

After the excitement generated by last year's holiday-season sales of Guaraldi's soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, the question was whether the results would be as spectacular this year.

Not quite ... but still very impressive.

Three Billboard charts held our attention this year:

• The Billboard 200, which tracks album sales across all platforms (the formula being 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 tracks sales = 1 album sale);

Billboard's Top Album Sales, which preserves the traditional methodology of counting solely pure album sales (which is where all those variant vinyl LPs play an important role); and

Billboard's Hot 100, which tracks the popularity of individual songs.

Last year, A Charlie Brown Christmas rose to #6 on the Billboard 200. So, how did it do this year?

The album entered the chart (once again, a "re-entry") for the week of November 19, at #90. It quickly rose to #43 the following week, and then #17 on December 3. It entered the top 10 — at #10 — the next week, but dropped to #12 on December 17. Then it rallied, and rose to #9 on December 24 ... and then #8 on December 31. Alas, that proved to be its peak, as it dropped back to #10 during the week of January 7.

Ah, but the news was much better in the Top Album Sales chart, where A Charlie Brown Christmas entered at #11 on December 3. It rose to #7 the following week, and then to #5 on December 17 ... which surpassed the previous year's peak position (#6). But Vince wasn't finished; his album hit #2 (!) on December 24, trailing behind only Taylor Swift's Midnight.

We held our breath, and wondered ... could Charlie Brown overtake Ms. Swift the following week?

(Highly unlikely. A Charlie Brown Christmas sold 17,000 units that week, to achieve its #2 status ... while Midnight's sales were in the low six figures.)

Alas, A Charlie Brown Christmas dropped to #3 on December 31, and then to #8 on January 7.

UPDATE: It dropped to #40, for the week ending January 14. (Guaraldi vanished from the other two charts.)

The Hot 100 chart offered a bit of solace. "Linus and Lucy" popped up for one week, at #49 on December 31, giving that tune its second run on this chart, following the previous year's surprise appearance (at #37). It disappeared on January 7, when "Christmas Time Is Here" debuted, at #50. It, too, did better the previous year, with a two-week run (#48, then #41).

Albeit a bit disappointing, we must put this chart action in perspective; we're talking about music that was produced almost seven decades ago, by a jazz artist who's been dead for almost half a century. If that isn't unprecedented, it's certainly astonishing!