October 22, 2020


Vince Guaraldi Is the Unsung Hero of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (BONNIE STIERNBERG, 10/21/20, Inside Hook)

 A Charlie Brown Christmas came first, and in the decades since, everything about it has become an iconic holiday tradition, from Charlie Brown's pathetic tree to Linus's monologue about the true meaning of the holiday and the Vince Guaraldi Trio's quadruple-platinum soundtrack album.

So, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may be the number two Peanuts holiday special, but it does try harder, thanks largely to Guaraldi and his soundtrack (which inexplicably didn't get a formal release until 2018). The jazz pianist's relationship with Charlie Brown and company can actually be traced back to his 1962 track "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" -- a Grammy-winning composition in which you can hear the groundwork for "Linus and Lucy" -- which caught the attention of producer Lee Mendelson. Mendelson asked Guaraldi to do the music for a Peanuts documentary that never got off the ground, but the partnership was solidified. A Charlie Brown Christmas came first and, of course, gave us classics like "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmastime is Here," and it was followed a second special called Charlie Brown's All-Stars! But it wasn't until Great Pumpkin that Guaraldi solidified what would come to be known as the Peanuts sound.

"Linus and Lucy" is absent from Charlie Brown's All-Stars!, but as legend has it, Guaraldi suggested to Mendelson that it become the unofficial Peanuts theme song ahead of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Mendelson was receptive, and Guaraldi recorded a new, fleshed-out version of the track with his sextet -- which included Emmanuel Klein on trumpet, John Gray on guitar, Ronald Lang on flute, Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drums -- that's widely regarded as the best arrangement of it. The sextet version of "Linus and Lucy," highlighted by Lang's flute counterpoint, is peppered throughout Great Pumpkin, and it's given room to breathe during the special's dialogue-free cold open featuring the two siblings it takes its name from searching for a suitable pumpkin to carve.

Posted by at October 22, 2020 8:29 AM