Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Boy Named Charlie Brown – Fantasy Records (1964/1972)/Craft Recordings (2021) CR03522 exclusive baseball card edition: 180-gram green grass stereo vinyl, 33:09 *****:
Craft Recordings releases a collector’s special edition of Vince Guaraldi’s first Peanuts television score.
(Vince Guaraldi – piano; Monty Budwig – bass; Colin Bailey – drums)
There is an enduring appeal for Charles Schulz’s Peanuts animated characters. The perennially struggling Charlie Brown is part of the American culture and psyche. Despite his occasional failures, his sense of humanity and friendship never falters. The Peanuts legacy took a giant step with the numerous animated television specials, most notably A Charlie Brown Christmas. A vital element of this success was the engaging jazz scores by San Francisco pianist Vince Guaraldi. Already a rising jazz star after stints with Cal Tjader and his trio (which produced the Grammy-winning “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”), this long-term collaboration with Lee Mendelson transcended music.
In 1964, Guaraldi composed a jazz soundtrack for a television documentary titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The movie was never aired, but Fantasy Records released Jazz Impressions Of A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The album helped to introduce a younger generation to jazz. Craft Recordings has released a special “baseball card” edition of A Boy Named Charlie Brown. In addition to analog re-mastering of the original tapes, the vinyl pressing is available in dazzling green-grass, sky-blue and baseball mitt-brown colors. Additionally, there are eight “baseball” cards of Charlie and his friends. Even with the strong connection to Schulz’ indelible world, the music more than stands on its own as great jazz. Side One opens with the gentle sway of “Oh, Good Grief”. Guaraldi’s airy presentation includes deft right-hand trills and concise phrasing in a mere 2:21. “Pebble Beach” (apparently written for a part of the documentary about Arnold Palmer) shifts into a finger-snapping Latin mode as the trio intermingles with precision and judicious chemistry. It is impressive that Guaraldi can execute a distinctive jazz statement in under three minutes. He distills the inherent whimsy of the Peanuts society with a delicate, whimsical touch on “Happiness Is”. It is atmospheric, but centered in signature flourishes and breezy eloquence. Of course, “Schroeder” begins with a Beethoven-inspired melody, but shifts to an adroit, slower ragtime feel. It is Americana meshed with classicism. It glows with warmth. Anyone who has watched any of the Charlie Brown specials will appreciate the nuanced jazziness of the “Charlie Brown Theme”. The loping cadence and bluesy attitude is compelling. The trio interacts seamlessly and at 1:03, there is a nimble tempo uptick. It is a buoyant jam that ends in a slow fade.
Perhaps the most beloved of Guaraldi’s Peanuts-based compositions is “Linus And Lucy”. Its timeless exuberance is full of memorable hooks and two brilliant tempo breaks. The festive, agile piano runs are intriguing. “Blue Charlie Brown”is a groove-fest arranged for a smoky nightclub atmosphere. Guaraldi builds a left-hand chord riff to frame the right hand action. He executes a variety of jazzy inflections with a soulful resonance. Monty Budwig (bass) and Colin Bailey (drums) are right there in unfaltering fusion. It is the most traditional and possibly the best playing on the album, clocking in at 7:26. Switching gears, “Baseball Theme’ is playful in 3/4 time arrangement. The trio transitions to swing, before returning to waltz-time. The finale, “Frieda With The Naturally Curly Hair” (who does not have a baseball card) kicks off with a muscular vamp, assisted by a gliding bass line. It exudes a breezy aesthetic, with sweeping accents.
This baseball card edition of A Boy Named Charlie Brown is a great jazz album, just like it was more than five decades ago. The instrumental finesse of this trio is exemplary. Vinyl aficionados will appreciate the colored vinyl pressing and the full-size cover of a beleaguered Charlie Brown on the mound.
Side 1: Oh, Good Grief; Pebble Beach; Happiness Is; Schroeder; Charlie Brown Theme
Side 2: Linus And Lucy; Blue Charlie Brown; Baseball Theme; Frieda (With The Naturally Curly Hair)
For more information, please visit Craft Recordings website: