Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Boy Named Charlie Brown

VinceGuaraldi_ABoyNamedCharlieBrown2014 reissue adds bonuses to Guaraldi’s first Peanuts release

In animating the Peanuts comic strip for television, the music of Vince Guaraldi was as important a voice as that of the child actors who played the characters, as critical a story element as the plot and dialog, and as colorful a setting as the drawings themselves. The music of A Charlie Brown Christmas remains every bit as iconic as Charlie Brown’s zig-zag sweater and Linus’ blanket, and the soundtrack to that first-to-be-broadcast Peanuts special remains every bit as beloved as Peanuts itself. What many probably don’t know is that Guaraldi had first engaged with Charles Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson and the Peanuts gang a year earlier with this soundtrack for the documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown (not to be confused with the 1969 film of the same name).

Not only did the original 60-minute program fail to find an outlet, but neither did the surviving 30-minute edit (which is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum), which was not broadcast at the time. Unusually, Guaraldi’s record label, Fantasy, had him re-record the soundtrack material and went ahead with a lavish gatefold release, initially titling it Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown to echo Guaraldi’s earlier breakthrough with Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. Across the album’s eleven tracks, Guaraldi and his trio (which included bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey) laid down both the template and many of the specifics that would blossom commercially in the following year’s Christmas special.

Guaraldi’s mastery of Latin rhythms underpins several tracks, but it was the mood of his earlier hit, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” that originally grabbed Lee Mendelson’s ear. As Ralph Gleason’s original essay points out, Guaraldi created something both original and empathetic to another artist’s work. His playing is at turns sly, joyous, lyrical, confident, thoughtful and most of all, playful. Budwig provides a melodic foil with his bass, and Bailey swings his drums without ever intruding on Guaraldi’s own rhythmic phrasings. Among the specifics first released on this title are two of two of Guaraldi’s best-known compositions, “Charlie Brown Theme” and “Linus and Lucy.” The rest of the album isn’t as memorably tied to specific animated sequences, but the music is just as pleasurable and stands sturdily on its own. The 2014 reissue adds an alternate take of “Baseball Theme” to the previously included bonus track “Fly Me to the Moon.” [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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