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If you were born in the sixties or later, there's a good chance that your first exposure to jazz was through the Peanuts Christmas special. Today the whimsical music of Vince Guaraldi seems inseparable from this holiday classic, but it almost didn't happen that way; producer Lee Mendelson originally envisioned either Dave Brubeck or Cal Tjader writing the score, even though CBS felt jazz was unsuitable for a cartoon show. Fortunately the show as we know it took place, giving us not only Guaraldi's best work, but one of the best jazz albums ever in concept and execution to emerge from the West Coast scene.
Concord has reissued the original 1966 version of the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas for the holidays with remastered versions of the classic tracks and a few alternates. The original CD version from OJC was long due for tweaking, and this new reissue features crisp new sound with a great deal more depth and warmth ("Linus and Lucy, for instance, has a bowed bass in the head that I had never noticed before on the old CD). Of course all the classics are still here. Guaraldi originals like "Skating and the beautiful "Christmas Time is Here sit comfortably next to breezy versions of holiday classics such as "Greensleeves and "O Tannenbaum.
The extra tracks are merely alternate takes, and unfortunately not extra tracks left off the original release (even though there are songs on the special that aren't on the CD.) In this case, though, the alternates are worthy additions to the playlist; "Christmas Is Coming features an extended piano improvisation and "Greensleeves is given a bossa nova beat (albeit to lesser effect.)
Guaraldi would have been a marginal player in the San Francisco scene had the Peanuts specials come along to bring about his best work, and this remastered CD sounds even better than the original.
Track Listing: O Tannenbaum; What Child Is This; My Little Drum; Linus and Lucy; Christmas Time Is Here
[instrumental]; Christmas Time Is Here [vocal]; Skating; Hark, The Herlad Angels Sing;
Christmas Is Coming; Fur Elise; The Christmas Song; Creensleeves; Christmas In Coming [alt.
take]; The Christmas Song [alt. take]; Greensleeves [alt. take]; Chirstmas Time Is Here [alt.
Personnel: Vince Guaraldi: piano; Fred Marshall, Monty Budwig: bass; Jerry Granelli, Colin Bailey: drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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