Vince Guaraldi is a sometimes forgotten figure in the pantheon of jazz of artists. His music, while sophisticated in places, did not change the course of American music. It was pleasurable, however, as it was very smooth and melodic, allowing the listener to relax. Sometimes that is enough. He is probably best remembered for his music written for the Peanuts television specials, which are still being broadcast, or possibly for his Grammy award-winning crossover hit, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”
The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi is different from many of the other releases in Concord Music Group’s Very Best Of jazz series in that it spans his career rather than just a specific period of time.
Just about every child and many parents have watched at least a part of A Charlie Brown Christmas and other Peanuts programs. “The Charlie Brown Theme” and “Linus and Lucy” are immediately recognizable to several generations of music listeners although they may not have realized they were listening to jazz at the time. Two other tracks are taken from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even I remember poor Charlie Brown giving directions for the gang’s Christmas play, while Lucy and the rest grooved to the sounds of “Christmas is Coming.” “Christmas Time Is Here” fit well into the theme of the show but also stands on its own as it is an extended and sprawling piece that allows Guaraldi to stretch and improvise.
His classic track will always be “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.” He was always more melodic than many of his contemporaries, which at the time took him outside the traditional or hard jazz approach. Still, his light touch and ability to create intricate arrangements are very apparent on his best creation.
He incorporated a variety of Latin rhythms and sounds into many of his releases. “Manha De Carnaval,” “Django,” and “Outra Vez” may be simple in some ways but his subtle excursions south of the border are worth exploring.
The cream of the album is his own composition, “Treat Street,” complete with timbales, congas, and a string quartet. Heavy orchestration and a driving rhythm set the foundation for his simple keyboard lines.
Vince Guaraldi’s music is well known even if his name is not. This new compilation is a fine introduction both to the man and the music.