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The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus



The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
Vince Guaraldi plays melodies with exemplary clarity and musicianship

Vince Guaraldi will forever be celebrated as the musician who composed unforgettable music for animated television adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip penned [and drawn by Charles Schultz]. His immortal compositions for this series included the signature melody Linus and Lucy and the holiday standard Christmas Time Is Here. However, Mr Guaraldi also enjoyed a distinguished career as pianist for Cal Tjader and his Mambo Trio, with whom he recorded such memorable songs as Chopsticks Mambo, Vibra-Tharpe, Three Little Words and Lullaby of the Leaves on The Cal Tjader Trio album [1951]. By 1954 the pianist had struck out his own, having fine-tuned his Afro-Caribbean chops to a great degree. 

Within a decade of his first making a name for himself with the Mambo Trio Mr Guaraldi had not only formed his own trio, signed on with Fantasy Records and made two fine albums – Modern Music from San Francisco [1957] and A Flower is a Lovesome Thing [1958]. Perhaps his greatest success came with the release Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus [1962], which comprised highly individualistic interpretations of music from the soundtrack of the Franco-Brasilian film Orfeu Negro, directed by Marcel Camus, with iconic music by Luis BonfáSamba de Orfeu and Manhã de Carnaval – and by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de MoraesFelicidade and O Nosso Amor. Mr Guaraldi’s magnificent contribution, the song Cast Your Fate to the Wind, won him a Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1963.

The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Mr Guaraldi’s album manages to capture – in tumbling jazzy grooves – the range of atmospheres and emotions not only of the film, but of the music from the original soundtrack, all this even though his greatest success came from his original composition. Mr Guaraldi’s musicianship through into high relief by the trio for which the music is arranged on the album. His pianism is propelled by invigorating motion, delicacy, and a singular earthiness. With nuanced harmonic voicing he softens the rumbling bass of Monty Budwig and embellishes the rattle and hum, and the hiss and sizzle of the drums and cymbals played by Colin Bailey, and so heightens every expressive moment in the music.

Throughout the album Mr Guaraldi ‘s undeniably sensitive playing moves note to note. Thus, we are invited to admire – as it were – every leaf on his musical tree until the music on the album unfolds like a lush green forest before our very eyes. He plays melodies with exemplary clarity and musicianship rather than with blinding virtuosity. Each song has a cinematic quality but is modestly arranged to give it a richer and wider – perhaps – more dramatic palette. One of the least exhibitionist pianists of his day there is, however, no lack of power in his fingerwork. With sweeping mastery of the score, he shows himself to be an aristocrat on the keyboard intent on purely musical ends.

Deluxe vinyl package of Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
Deluxe vinyl package of Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

In an era of re-mastering and repackaging of past releases Craft Recordings lavish presentation of the vinyl as a single long-playing record will be a valuable addition to any collector [a three-vinyl set is also available with all the tracks that are featured on the double-CD]. For those who prefer a facsimile edition of the original the vinyl has been superbly re-mastered by the famous Bernie Grundman Mastering. The CD version of the release features all the alternate takes, which is a bit of a misnomer, as are all the so-called alternates. No matter which version you choose to adorn your music library you will not be disappointed.

Deo gratis…

Music on vinyl –
Side A –
1: Samba de Orpheus; 2: Manhã de Carnaval; 3: O Nosso Amor; 4: Generique.
Side B – 1: Cast Your Fate to the Wind; 2: Moon River; 3: Alma Ville; 4: Since I Fell For You.

Music on CD –
Disc One –
1: Samba de Orpheu; 2: Manhã de Carnaval; 3: O Nosso Amor; 4: Felicidade; 5: Cast Your Fate to the Wind; 6: Moon River; 7: Alma Ville; 8: Since I Fell for You. Alternate takes – 1: Samba de Orpheu; 10: Samba de Orpheu; 11: Manhã de Carnaval; 12: Manhã de Carnaval. Disc Two – Alternate takes [continued] – 1: O Nosso Amor; 2: O Nosso Amor; 3: Felicidade; 4: Felicidade; 5: Cast Your Fate to the Wind; 6: Cast Your Fate to the Wind; 7: Cast Your Fate to the Wind; 8: Alma-Ville; 9: Since I Fell for You; 10: Jitterbug Waltz; 11: Jitterbug Waltz; 12: Jitterbug Waltz.

Musicians – Vince Guaraldi: piano; Monty Budwig: contrabass; Colin Bailey: drums.

Released – 1985/2023
Label – Concord Picante/Craft Recordings
Runtime – Vinyl – Side A: 21:16 Side B: 19:15, CD: Disc One 1:01:12 Disc Two 58:59

Based in Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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