Previously released on CD, this deluxe, 4-LP vinyl edition explores Guaraldi’s career through rare photos, ephemera and 31 tracks recorded between 1955 and 1966. This comprehensive survey proves that the San Francisco-based jazz pianist was much more than just the music behind the Peanuts animated specials—the position which gained him his widest recognition.
Each 180-gram vinyl LP in this collection is housed in its own unique sleeve, the design of which is inspired by Guaraldi ephemera. A collectible 12” x 24” poster of the pianist also is included, as is a whimsical reproduction of a 1960s promotional cut-out Guaraldi mustache that can be worn, as many jazz club patrons did back in the day, when they were passed out during his live performances. An accompanying 16-page booklet features a host of rarely seen images—many of which are from the extensive collection of historian Derrick Bang (author of 2012’s Vince Guaraldi at the Piano [McFarland Press]). Liner notes by award-winning jazz historian and journalist Doug Ramsey round out the package.
Guaraldi’s fans will be pleased to find that this compilation covers a wide range of material, including both hits and lesser-known gems: from an original tune included on the pianist’s earliest album effort as leader of his own combo (1955’s Modern Music from San Francisco) to his collaborations with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete; selections from Peanuts specials and Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus; as well as several live performances. Also of note are two recordings from 1964, "Autumn Leaves” and "Blues for Peanuts,” which had been unreleased prior to their inclusion in the compact disc edition of this collection.
A native of San Francisco, Vince Guaraldi became one of America’s best-selling jazz artists. Though much of his legacy is tied to his association with Peanuts, he already had made a name for himself in the jazz world by the time that he was tapped to score the first of these many animated specials. Guaraldi was a regular performer in the Bay Area throughout the 1950s. He was often in the studio, most notably with several Cal Tjader-led outfits, but also with the first of his own eponymous trios, with which he began recording in 1956 for Fantasy Records. However, it was his 1962 LP, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, which catapulted the pianist into wide recognition. Guaraldi, who held a deep admiration for Latin music, drew inspiration from the Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá-penned bossa nova soundtrack for the 1959 Brazilian/French/Italian filmBlack Orpheus. He recorded an ode to the film’s music, performing both covers from the score as well as some original material, including "Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” That track became an instant hit, winning the 1963 GRAMMY® Award for Best Original Jazz Composition.
Guaraldi continued to expand his passion for Latin sounds, collaborating with Sete on three Fantasy albums, the first of which was 1964’s Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends. It was also during this time that Guaraldi was tapped by San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral to compose and perform an entire mass, written to include a Eucharist chorus. This historic, groundbreaking performance, which marked the first time jazz was performed during an American church service, was recorded live during its debut on May 21, 1965.
One other event also changed the course of Guaraldi’s place in music history. In 1964, Bay Area TV producer Lee Mendelson set out to create a documentary about Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and the unlikely hero of his comic strip, Charlie Brown. Due to the whims of network programmers at the time, the resulting film — A Boy Named Charlie Brown — never aired. Fantasy nevertheless forged ahead with the 1964 release of the documentary soundtrack. Guaraldi’s compositions painted an evocative backdrop to Schulz’s cast of engaging and enduring characters. The tracks from that original recording include the now-iconic "Linus and Lucy,” which eventually made its way to prime-time television a year later, in the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.
"It just blew me away,” says Mendelson, of the first time he heard the song. "There was no doubt in my mind that if we hadn’t had that Guaraldi score, we wouldn’t have had the franchise we later enjoyed.” Over the next decade, Guaraldi went on to score numerous Peanuts TV specials.
In his liner notes, Doug Ramsey writes that Guaraldi’s music has "become a part of the fabric of modern life.” And indeed that’s true. At the time of his premature death in 1976, the 47-year old pianist had achieved goals that fellow jazz musicians only dreamt of. With every year’s airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, his legacy continues to grow: His instantly recognizable music will continue to delight and inspire new generations for decades to come.