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Cyrus Chestnut Champions the Music of a Charlie Brown Christmas

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There are lots of reasons why “A Charlie Brown Christmas" has become an enduring classic since its TV debut in 1965: its gentle wit and wisdom, its slyly subversive message about consumerism and the true meaning of Christmas. But don't discount the buoyant jazz score, written by pianist Vince Guaraldi (1928-76) and now instantly recognizable to millions.

Cyrus Chestnut, a leading jazz pianist who is known for his swinging, gospel-tinged conception, has loved the music since he was a kid and was even known around high school as the guy who could play “Charlie Brown." He recorded the music some years ago, is performing it with his trio, which includes bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith.

QUESTION: When did you first hear the music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas"?

ANSWER: I remember Charlie Brown at the age of 6. It could have been younger. I always loved the story, the saga of Charlie Brown - I would hope he'd win the baseball game and get the little red-haired girl.

But the one thing that drew me in addition to that was the music. I always loved the music. There was something about it. I didn't know it was jazz or that it was Vince Guaraldi, but I knew that I liked it.

Q: What appealed to you when you were a kid?

A: The melodies are timeless. They're very simple yet complex, complex yet simple. I think there's so much heart and spirit in what was done, how the songs are written and the way that Vince Guaraldi played, that you cannot help but feel good after hearing the music. Many years later, I still feel the same way when I hear it.

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