Monday, November 20, 2023

A Jolly Guaraldi Holiday 2023

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.

The 2020 and '21 post-Covid slow-down definitely is behind us, since last year's impressive roster of performances matched pre-pandemic numbers. Some patrons and musicians remain cautious, and likely will be masked; we must respect folks wary of what seems to have become an annual "holiday infection bump." That said, the shows will go on. Some groups are "fighting back" with impressively lengthy schedules. Indeed, this year's list is much longer than ever before: We've covered 32 American states, five Canadian provinces and one venue in the UK. (And I'm sure groups in the remaining 18 states are joining in the fun; I simply haven't heard about them.)

All that said, schedules still are more fluid than they were, prior to 2020. It's best to keep an eye on the web site(s) of any artist and/or venue that catches your fancy, to learn of any last-minute changes.

I first traced the history and growth of this delightful annual 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 2023 concerts that come to my attention. As always, I'll add to this schedule as new information becomes available, so you'll want to check back frequently. New entries and listings will be tagged as UPDATES

Let's start with mainstay groups with busy touring schedules:

• The Chris White Trio has become quite serious about honoring Guaraldi's holiday-themed Peanuts music. During the next month, Chris (on piano) will work with bassists Sean Jacobi, Mike Benning and Joe Policastro; and drummers Ryan Jacobi, Kurt Lubbe and Joe Adamik. The trio began this season back on Sunday, October 29, with a one-off performance of the music from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, at Winter's Jazz Club, in Chicago, Illinois. The same venue will host the trio's one-night tribute to the music from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 22. The group's full-schedule Charlie Brown Christmas shows will kick off Saturday, December 2, in Berwyn, Illinois, with additional performances at numerous Illinois venues, concluding Monday, December 18, at Evanston's MSpace. Details

Doc Watkins and his Orchestra began their month-long Christmas in Jazz tributes to the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas at San Antonio's JazzTX, Texas, on Friday, November 24. Upcoming shows include November 25, November 30-December 2, and December 5, 8-9, 14-16, 19 and 23. DetailsThey also scheduled a December 22 performance at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, also in San Antonio. Details. The icing on the cake: Watkins' terrific 2022 album, The Music of A Charlie Brown Christmasdo check it out!

The Eric Byrd Trio — Byrd, piano and vocals; Bhagwan Khalsa, acoustic bass; and Alphonso Young Jr., drums and percussion — has made a cottage industry of Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas music, having thus far released two cover albums: a 2009 studio project, and a 2021 live performance. Both are available here. Byrd's combo began its annual run on Sunday, November 26, in Washington, D.C., with subsequent performances in Virginia and Maryland, concluding Saturday, December 23, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, in Frederick, Maryland. Details.

• The Heather Pierson Trio — Pierson, piano; Shawn Nadeau, bass; and Craig Bryan, drums — will began an ambition Charlie Brown Christmas tour on Sunday, November 26, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Subsequent stops will include venues in New Hampshire and Maine, concluding on Sunday, December 24, in Bethel, Maine. Details.

The Eric Mintel Quartet — Mintel, piano; Nelson Hill, sax; Jack Hegyi, bass; and Dave Mohn, drums — also has a busy schedule of Charlie Brown Holiday Jazz shows starting Wednesday, November 29, in Worcester, Massachusetts, with additional shows throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, concluding Thursday, December 21, in Clinton, New Jersey. Details.

• The Cartoon Christmas Trio — Jeff Knoettner, piano; Rob Swanson, double bass; and Larry Marshall, drums — performs music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, along with tunes from other animated holiday shows, such as Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Their 2008 album is a kick; check it out.) They have an extremely busy schedule that kicks off November 30 in Wilmington, Delaware, with subsequent stops through December 23 in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Details.

• Popular jazz pianist David Benoit traditionally headlines a concert tour of his Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown each December. This year's schedule — which again features vocalist Courtney Fortune — kicks off Sunday, December 3, in Saratoga, California, with subsequent stops in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona and additional California venues, and concludes Thursday-Saturday, December 21-23, at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle, Washington. Check his website for details.

The Ornaments — Jen Gunderman, piano; Martin Lynds, bass; and James Haggaerty, drums — will be joined by special guest soloists for their 18th annual performances of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas during a busy schedule that runs from December 16-23: two shows Saturday, December 16, at the Temple Theatre in Portland, Tennessee; and 13 shows (!) Monday through Saturday, December 18-23, at the Eastside Bowl, in Nashville, Tennesee. Details.

The Annie Booth Trio — Booth, piano; Patrick McDevitt, bass; and Alejandro Castaño, drums — will be joined by guest vocalists Bailey Hinkley Grogan, Jenna McLean and Marion Powers, for their 10th annual Charlie Brown Christmas concerts during 13 shows (!) Monday through Sunday, December 18-24, at Dazzle, in Denver, Colorado. Details.