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Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Vince Guaraldi Trio

Yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas; today we’ve been putting away the decorations and the Christmas music. As the Season closes I’m left with questions, questions about Vince Guaraldi’s music for Charlie Brown.
I love the soundtrack, though for years I’ve thought that Side 1 and Side 2 were mislabeled, leading to the opening song coming right in the middle (at what used to be the beginning of Side 2), directly preceded by its lengthy instrumental reprise (at what used to be the end of Side 1) -- this ordering makes No Sense. Easy solution in the LP days: listen to Side 2 first, which results in the album beginning with the shows opening song, and closing with the reprise, very nicely. (I never owned the LP.) The CD release also pointlessly tacks on a completely different version of “Greensleeves” at the end, one with a different band, from a different session, and with considerably more dissonance, breaking the smooth lovely melancholy mood. Why did they add it? I don’t get it.

Watching the video this Season, I noticed discrepancies between the music in the show and on the recording. Three songs on the soundtrack Album don’t appear in the show: “Greensleeves,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Chestnuts Roasting.” Contrariwise, I noticed 4 tunes in the show not represented on the soundtrack album:

* Snoopy’s home-decorating theme, with horns! (The album and the rest of the film feature only keyboards, bass, drums, and kids singing.) It’s a catchy tune.

* Sally’s love theme, for Linus. Very brief, and very sweet.

* Rehearsal music, during the play rehearsals (not when they’re dancing.) A strong tune never emerges, but the music seems distinct from anything on the soundtrack album. I could be wrong about this.

* Very briefly, a melancholic, lovely reharmonization of “Jingle Bells.”

I’m guessing Guaraldi never worked up full “tune-length” versions of any of these snippets, just leaving them very nice snippets for the show. Too bad. Much as I like his versions of “Greensleeves” (the original, not the tacked-on one), “Chestnuts Roasting,” and “Drummer Boy,” these would have been terrific too.
Another film, another jazz pianist-composer, another lost great tune: Duke Ellington’s great soundtrack for “Anatomy of a Murder”; at one point James Stewart’s character plays a rippin’ boogie woogie arrangement of “Oh Danny Boy” (a/k/a “Londonderry Air”); it’s obviously Duke’s playing, but a full take never showed up, and Columbia’s otherwise comprehensive re-release of the soundtrack album lacks this tiny gem.

Acchh -- shouldn’t regret too much the ones that got away, when we’ve been blessed with musical riches beyond all reckoning.

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