O Christmas Tree – O Tannenbaum (arr. Vince Guaraldi) sheet music
The Vince Guaraldi Playlist (sheet music)
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On July 17, 1928, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi was born in San Francisco , passionate about boogie piano, whose greatest influences came from Jimmy Yancey.
Born Vincent Anthony Guaraldi, Vince grew up in a very musical family. His uncles, Muzzy Marcellino (a TV musical director) and Joe Marcellino (violinist and band director) soon noticed the little boy’s interest in music and at the age of seven he was already taking piano lessons, which he did not abandon in his teenage years.
When he finished high school, he entered the Daily News San Francisco as an apprentice. There he suffered an accident in 1949 in which he almost lost a finger, and this incident would turn out to be crucial in his life, since thanks to the support of his family and his self-love for developing his talent, he decided to devote himself to whole to the music.
That same year, he attended the San Francisco Conservatory and gave his first professional performance. His first serious job was with Cal Tjader in 1950. He then played in the bands of Bill Harris and Chubby Jackson and in 1953, with Georgie Auld . Two years later, Guaraldi worked with Sonny Criss and entered the beatnik scene with his own trio. In 1956 he spent a year with Woody Herman , later with Tjader again, and, in 1959, with the Lighthouse All Stars.
His piano style was full of energy, influenced by bebop and boogie woogie. But in the late 1950s bossa nova appeared, a hybrid between samba and cool jazz with slightly syncopated rhythms and wispy melodies.
It was during his stay in New York with Cal Tjader that Guaraldi heard Latin American music for the first time, something that would have a powerful influence on his style at the piano. Years before most North American musicians were aware of bossa nova, Guaraldi was already looking for ways to meld his piano into the hypnotic rhythms and smooth textures that the style brought from Brazil required. He made several recordings together with the Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete , as well as with Conte Candoli and Frank Rosolino.
The interest in bossa and the one that aroused the soundtrack of the film ‘Orfeo Negro’, in which the legend of Orfeo and Eurídice was brought up to date by placing it in the Rio Carnival, led Guaraldi to record in 1962 the album ‘Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus’.
A single was released from it, ‘Samba de Orpheus’, but it was its B-side that became very popular thanks to the insistence of a Californian disc jockey. ‘Cast your fate to the wind’ was included at the last minute and in a hurry because the album was too short of time, and the song received the Grammy for best jazz composition of 1962. The disc found its way into the hands of numerous young buyers of records and was one of the first jazz songs to reach the Top 40 of the pop charts.
Due to the success of the album, Guaraldi continued to experiment with new fields for his music. Commissioned by the Episcopal Archdiocese of California for a jazz piece to accompany the Holy Eucharist, Guaraldi agreed and recorded ‘Grace Cathedral Concert’ in May 1965 with a 200-voice choir singing Gregorian chants while Guaraldi and his group performed jazz improvisations.
Although some people considered it inappropriate, critics of Time Magazine and Bishop James A. Pike himself, head of the diocese of California, praised the work.
A new musical horizon opened up for Guaraldi when he was commissioned to compose the music for the TV series and the movie based on the cartoonist Schultz’s comic strip, ‘The Peanuts’, or ‘Charlie Brown and Snoopy’.
Ralph Gleason introduced Vince to series producer Lee Mendelson, who wanted a jazz soundtrack, in order to differentiate his animated series from all the previous ones. Their collaboration spawned 16 half-hour shows and a movie, ‘A boy named Charlie Brown’, for whose soundtrack Guaraldi was nominated for an Oscar in 1970.
Later, Vince returned to performing in clubs and bars around San Francisco. He performed his last show on February 6, 1976, at Butterfield’s Bar in Menlo Park, California. In the break between two shwos he suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 47.
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