Just in time for the holidays, Fantasy has released a remaster of the classic soundtrack A Charlie Brown Christmas. The cartoon follows Charlie Brown's search for the true meaning of Christmas, and Vince Guaraldi's music is an integral part of this perennial holiday favorite. Guaraldi, born in 1928 in San Francisco and died in 1976 while resting between sets at a club, was part of the flourishing '50s California scene which produced the movement known as West Coast jazz. The pianist is best known for his work with Cal Tjader, and he also had short stints with the Lighthouse All-Stars and Woody Herman.
Guaraldi was a gifted and tenacious man; unlike many of his West Coast contemporaries whose careers declined in the '60s due to rock 'n' roll and a diminishing club scene, Guaraldi continued to thrive. His song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" (1963) won a Grammy, and he also garnered praise for his work with guitarist Bola Sete.
Of his later work, A Charlie Brown Christmas is perhaps the most lasting. The music feels as fresh today as when it was first released in 1965; the trio has a light, effortless touch, and the songs definitely swing. This soundtrack epitomizes West Coast jazz virtues and strikes the right balance of wistfulness, joy, and childhood innocence appropriate to the subject matter. The songs are a combination of Guaraldi originals as well as his arrangements of holiday chestnuts such as "O Tannenbaum," "Greensleeves," and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which are elegant and swinging, meshing seamlessly with his originals.
Perhaps his best known song is the infectious "Linus and Lucy," which accompanies a scene in the cartoon where Snoopy and the Peanuts gang cut loose with some free-form dancing. "Skating" captures the pure joy of flying on ice, and "Christmas Time is Here" expresses the melancholy of the season without being overwhelmed by it.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a soundtrack, a holiday CD, a jazz album, and a classic example of West Coast jazza sound which Guaraldi helped create. This is a timeless album, appropriate for all seasons and not to be missed.
Side A: O Tannenbaum;
What Child Is This;
My Little Drum;
Linus & Lucy;
Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental).
Side B: Christmas Time Is Here (vocal);
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing;
Christmas Is Coming;
The Christmas Song;