Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Vince Guaraldi Trio: “Peanuts Greatest Hits”

When I was a kid, I had no idea I was a jazz fan. Like most kids I knew, I couldn’t get enough of the music from the Peanuts specials, music written by pianist Vince Guaraldi. We didn’t know that was jazz. We just knew it sounded great. Now a new compilation, Peanuts Greatest Hits, allows us to revisit those wonderful compositions from our childhood, music that never really left us. Sure, as adults, we know a lot more about Vince Guaraldi and how these compositions came about (and if you don’t, just read this CD’s new liner notes from Derrick Bang), but the music hits us the same way it did when we were children. And that’s something we all need from time to time.

The CD opens with the wonderful “Linus And Lucy,” the tune most people think of as the Peanuts theme. It’s such a great composition, and it never fails to make me smile. This track was included on A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was re-issued in 2012, and also on The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi, also released in 2012. It’s followed by the lesser known “Charlie Brown Theme,” from A Boy Named Charlie Brown. This one has a delightful, relaxed swinging groove, and I really like what Monty Budwig does on bass.

“Baseball Theme” contains nice little nods to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” at the beginning. Baseball is another thing that has the power to bring me back to my childhood, the joy and excitement of being at Fenway Park eliminating all grown-up cares, if only momentarily. And Vince Guaraldi really captures the innocence and joy of baseball with this composition. “Happiness Is” likewise has an innocence, and is a sweet tune, with a certain nostalgic quality.

“Little Birdie” is definitely the most unusual track on this release. First of all, Vince Guaraldi is on electric piano. And secondly, this song treats us to his vocals. The song is from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (heard while Snoopy and Woodstock are setting up the ping pong table and chairs), and was included on the album Peanuts Portraits. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Little birdie, why do you fly upside down/It’s amazing at the way you get around/Little birdie, why you worry like you do/Don’t you worry, you just do what you can do.” Tom Harrell is on trumpet, and Chuck Bennett is on trombone. Also included from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is “Thanksgiving Theme.”

This CD concludes with four tunes from A Charlie Brown Christmas, all of which feature Fred Marshall on bass and Jerry Granelli on drums. Both versions of “Christmas Time Is Here” are included. This composition is so beautiful and peaceful. It feels like being seated next to the fireplace late at night, a cup of cocoa in your hand, the snow lightly falling outside, time at a standstill. I prefer the longer instrumental rendition, but the vocal version has its own charm, and features St. Paul’s Church Choir. It is certainly one of the best Christmas songs.

CD Track List
  1. Linus And Lucy
  2. Charlie Brown Theme
  3. Baseball Theme
  4. Oh, Good Grief
  5. Happiness Is
  6. Little Birdie
  7. Great Pumpkin Waltz
  8. Thanksgiving Theme
  9. Christmas Is Coming
  10. Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)
  11. Skating
  12. Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal)
Peanuts Greatest Hits is scheduled to be released on July 31, 2015 through Concord Music Group and Fantasy Records.

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