An Introduction to Vince Guaraldi, the Jazz Composer Who Created the Finest Christmas Album Ever, A Charlie Brown Christmas


When A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas first aired 58 years in the past, few had any con­fi­dence that it could be successful. Its sto­ry and ani­ma­tion, bare-bones even by the stan­dards of mid-nine­teen-six­ties tele­vi­sion, made a pos­i­tive impres­sion on nei­ther CBS’ exec­u­tives nor on lots of the spe­cial’s personal cre­ators. They did­n’t count on that this very sim­plic­i­ty would flip it right into a peren­ni­al hol­i­day favourite — nor, pre­sum­ably, that its sound­observe by the Vince Guaral­di Trio would change into probably the most beloved Christ­mas albums in exis­tence. Now that we’re effectively into the ocean­son when the music from A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas is heard each day in houses, cafés, and store­ping malls all world wide, why not get an intro­duc­tion to Guaral­di, the person and his music, from pop cul­ture video essay­ist Matt Drap­er?

“Born in San Fran­cis­co in 1928, Guaral­di cred­it­ed his two uncles with spark­ing his inter­est in jazz as a baby, with the longer term musi­cian already be taught­ing the piano by age sev­en,” says Drap­er. After serv­ing within the Kore­an Battle and return­ing dwelling to review music at San Fran­cis­co State Uni­ver­si­ty, Guaral­di started to “pur­sue his love of jazz in native golf equipment.”

He quickly shaped his trio, and file­ing their first albums within the mid-nine­teen-fifties, he “increase­ed his use of Latin jazz and bossa nova.” In 1962 Guaral­di scored his first hit with “Solid Your Destiny to the Wind,” a sin­gle from an album impressed by Mar­cel Camus’ Black Orpheus. It was a radio broad­forged of that tune, so the sto­ry goes, that caught the ear of Lee Mendel­son, who would professional­duce A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas, as he crossed the Gold­en Gate Bridge in a taxi­cab.

Mendel­son ini­tial­ly com­mis­sioned Guaral­di to com­pose the music for A Boy Named Char­lie Brown, a tele­vi­sion doc­u­males­tary that ulti­mate­ly nev­er aired. However its file­ing ses­sions introduced forth “Linus and Lucy,” which grew to become Peanuts’ de fac­to theme tune, and when Coca-Cola agreed to spon­sor Peanuts Christ­mas spe­cial in 1965 — a scant six months earlier than Christ­mas itself — Guaral­di was known as again to attain it. “A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas is a slightly melan­cholic sto­ry cen­ter­ing on Char­lie’s seek for imply­ing and value within the hol­i­day sea­son,” says Drap­er, “so it’s match­ting that a big por­tion of Guaraldi’s rating is tinged with unhappy­ness.” But “Guaraldi’s melan­choly isn’t over­wrought or compelled; slightly, it’s minor and sub­tle,” in contrast to the aver­age movie rating that tries to “beat its lis­ten­ers over the pinnacle with emo­tion.”

The sound­observe album, which you’ll hear (and see accom­pa­nied by a Xmas hearth­place) on the offi­cial Vince Guaral­di Youtube chan­nel, gives musi­cal vari­ety from the “ton of swing­ing model” in its ver­sion of “O Tanen­baum” to the “waltz brim­ming with ener­gy” of “Skat­ing” to “Christ­mas Is Com­ing,” with its “hints of rock-and-roll.” Within the video simply above, com­pos­er-Youtu­ber Charles Cor­nell explains what makes it “with­out a doubt, the very best Christ­mas album ever” (a title held together with that of the best-sell­ing jazz album in his­to­ry after Miles Davis’ Form of Blue), not least its being much less “in-your-face Christ­mas” than oth­er sim­i­lar­ly themed file­ings. But he additionally acknowl­edges that Guaraldi’s most beau­ti­ful com­po­si­tion for a Peanuts spe­cial isn’t in A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas, however It’s the Nice Pump­kin, Char­lie Brown, from 1966. When subsequent fall fall rolls round, do make “Nice Pump­kin Waltz” the primary tune you hear.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Inno­v­a­tive Jazz Pianist Vince Guaral­di Turned the Com­pos­er of Beloved Char­lie Brown Music

Stream 22 Hours of Funky, Rock­ing & Swing­ing Christ­mas Albums: From James Brown and John­ny Money to Christo­pher Lee & The Ven­tures

Take pleasure in Clas­sic Songs from A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas, Per­shaped by Vince Guaral­di Trio Drum­mer Jer­ry Granel­li

Why “White Christ­mas,” “Right here Comes San­ta Claus,” “Let It Snow,” and Oth­er Clas­sic Christ­mas Songs Come from the Forties

Charles Schulz Attracts Char­lie Brown in 45 Sec­onds and Exor­cis­es His Demons

The Endur­ing Enchantment of Schulz’s Peanuts — Pret­ty A lot Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­forged #116

Based mostly in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His tasks embody the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the guide The State­much less Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video collection The Metropolis in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­guide.


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