Fantasy Records – Cat # 3337 with original and 2nd cover.
Most people are well aware of jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi’s (1928 – 1976) connection to the music of Peanuts, the Charles Schulz comic featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Guaraldi actually recorded compositions for seventeen Peanuts specials but topping this wonderful body of work is his soundtrack for the 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas Special. My favorite Christmas film, I sometimes drag it out in mid-August just to be reminded of how great I feel when I watch it. Go Linus!
What many people don’t realize is that Guaraldi, despite his death at only 47 years old, left a legacy of recorded jazz over a career that spanned 23 years and included 31 albums as a leader or co-leader and more than a dozen collaborations with jazz royalty like Cal Tjader and Stan Getz.
Guaraldi was born and raised in the North Beach section of San Francisco. He made his first recording with the Cal Tjader Trio in late 1953 and it was released as an early 10-inch LP early in 1954. He formed his own trio in 1955, with Eddie Duran and Dean Reilly, but continued playing with Tjader. A fixture on the North California jazz scene, Guaraldi also got his chance to shine on a bigger stage when he played with Cal Tjader at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Early photo of Vince’s first trio
He left Tjader in 1959 to follow his own projects and hit it big when he was asked to compose a tune for the French/Brazilian movie Black Orpheus on which he had been hired to play cover songs. He composed “Samba de Orpheus” for the film, which picked up an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but surprised everyone with the B-side composition “Cast Your Fate to the Wind“. He picked up a Grammy for that B-side recording and had a hit on his hands. Throughout his career he never turned down a request to play it publicly and was happy to include it in all his live shows.
The album, however, was not a soundtrack, it contained a mixture or original Guaraldi tunes and covers and jazz-based interpretations of songs from the movie. In addition to Guaraldi on piano, Colin Bailey is on drums and Monty Budwig handled double bass, I have a CD of the original release. There is also a 2010 Original Jazz Classic (OJC) version that has a number of otherwise unavailable alternate takes. And, yes, it’s on my “needs” list.
$1.25 Dinner and Vince on piano. Sounds like a good night!
“Cast Your Fate to the Wind” had more in store, however, for Guaraldi. The legend is that Lee Mendelsohn, the producer of the Peanuts series, was riding in a taxi across the Golden Gate Bridge when CYFttW was played on the radio. He had been looking for the right accompaniment to the Peanuts work and phoned Ralph Gleason the famed jazz critic at the SF Chronicle. Gleason connected the two and the rest, as they say, is music history.