Arguments abound about what is hip and what isn’t when it comes to Christmas music, but few can argue that Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a breath of fresh air in a world otherwise dominated by recordings by Kenny G, Mannheim Steamroller, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Certified “triple platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America, and ranked by Sound Scan as the #10 best selling Christmas album since 1991, A Charlie Brown Christmas — and his association with Peanuts creator Charles Schulz — is what Guaraldi is best remembered for.
What few of us probably know about Guaraldi, however, is that he was actually a self-proclaimed “reformed boogie-woogie player” who got his start filling in for Art Tatum in San Francisco’s famed Black Hawk club, and was eventually known in San Francisco music circles as “Dr. Funk”. His 1963 hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” earned a Gold Record and won the “Best Jazz Instrumental” Grammy in 1963. The story of the recording, in fact, was made into a three part documentary, produced by legendary journalist Ralph Gleason, and aired on public television in the Bay area.
Guaraldi died at age 47 in 1976. He once said of himself, “I don’t think I am a great piano player, but I would like to have people like me, to play pretty tunes and reach the audience.” With his brilliant style that helped Schulz communicate the spirit of childhood to a mass audience, Guaraldi certainly accomplished that.
For a comprehensive look at his entire career, visit The Official Site of Vince Guaraldi.
“Cast Your Fate to the Wind”
“Christmas Time is Here”
“Outra Vez,” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with Bola Sete