Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Time is Here

Perhaps, some of you, may have first become aware, and hip, to Vince Guaraldi via his hit tune "Cast Your Fate To The Wind", born out of his work on "Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus".

However, numerous generations are warmed by the music from all the Charlie Brown specials, completely unaware of Guaraldi.

From the Vince Guaraldi website;

The most prestigious task, however, was yet to come. Even before Duke Ellington played San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, that venerable institution's Reverend Charles Gompertz selected Guaraldi to write a modern jazz setting for the choral Eucharist. The composer labored18 months with his trio and a 68-voice choir, and the result is an impressive blend of Latin influences, waltz tempos, and traditional jazz "supper music". It was performed live on May 21, 1965, and the album became another popular and critical hit. Clearly, if Vince Guaraldi could write music for God, he could pen tunes for Charlie Brown.

The jazz pianist's association with Charles Schulz's creations actually had begun the year before, when Guaraldi was hired to score the first Peanuts television special, adocumentary called"A Boy Named Charlie Brown " (not to be confused with the big- screen feature of the same title). The show brought together four remarkable talents: Schulz, writer/producer/director Lee Mendelson, artist Bill Melendez and Guaraldi.

Guaraldi's smooth trio compositions -- piano, bass and drums -- perfectly balanced Charlie Brown's kid-sized universe. Sprightly, puckish, and just as swiftly somber and poignant, these gentle jazz riffs established musical trademarks which, to this day, still prompt smiles of recognition.

They reflected the whimsical personality of a man affectionately known as a "pixie", an image Guaraldi did not discourage. He'd wear funny hats, wild mustaches, and display hairstyles from buzzed crewcuts to rock-star shags.

Unfortunately, with an irony that seemed appropriate for a documentary about Charlie Brown, Mendelson never was able to sell the show, which remains unseen to this day by the general public. Fortunately, the unaired program became an expensive calling-card that attracted a sponsor (Coca-Cola) intrigued by the notion of a Peanuts Christmas TV special. Thus, when "A Charlie Brown Christmas" debuted in December 1965, it did more than reunite Schulz, Mendelson, Melendez and Guaraldi, all of whom quickly turned the Peanuts franchise into a television institution. That first special also shot Guaraldi to greater fame, and he became irreplaceably welded to all subsequent Peanuts shows. Many of his earliest Peanuts tunes -- "Linus and Lucy", "Red Baron" and "Great Pumpkin Waltz", among others -- became signature themes that turned up in later specials.
And, Wikipedia;
While searching for just the right music to accompany a planned Peanuts television documentary, Lee Mendelson (the producer of the special) heard a single version of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Vince Guaraldi's trio on the radio while traveling in a taxicab on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. Mendelson contacted Ralph J. Gleason, jazz columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and was put in touch with Guaraldi. He proposed that Guaraldi score the upcoming Peanuts Christmas special and Guaraldi enthusiastically took the job, performing a version of what became "Linus and Lucy" over the phone two weeks later. The soundtrack was recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, whose other members were bassist Fred Marshall (who later married Bev Bivens of the folk-rock group We Five) and drummer Jerry Granelli. Guaraldi went on to compose scores for sixteen Peanuts television specials, plus the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown as well as the unaired television program of the same name.

Here's a little something familiar, to warm you up ...

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Christmas Time is Here Song

Bonus Bonus

NORAD Tracks Santa 2008

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