Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Boy Named Charlie Brown (2004)
By any standard, "Linus and Lucy" is a great song. Anyone over the age of seven is familiar with the melody, a catchy tune instantly identifiable with the Peanuts gang. It also put Vince Guaraldi, an artist who might otherwise have been a one-hit wonder with "Cast Your Fate To the Wind" and relegated to the minor leagues, on the map.
Guaraldi's reputation rests almost entirely on the music he created for the Peanuts television specials, but it's magnificent work that deserves to be recognized as such. Many are familiar with the music from It's A Charlie Brown Christmas , which almost entirely consisted of jazzed up versions of Christmas classics. For this 1964 recording (which was actually the first), Guaraldi composed all the music himself. In addition to "Linus and Lucy," there are a bunch of enchanting melodies that are filled with childish whimsy and bouncy swing. All are immediately catchy, mainly because they have the virtue of bearing a resemblance to other songs you've heard before, but can't quite place.
Since television scoring is designed to stick in the background and play second fiddle to the images, it's a testament to Guaraldi's art that he can craft songs that stand quite well separated from the images. It's not a children's album, but rather a top-notch series of breezy jazz treatments. A Boy Named Charlie Brown is arguably the best work that Guaraldi ever did, and an extra recording of "Fly Me To the Moon" demonstrates why he never could have established his reputation solely as an interpreter of standards; it lacks the punch of the previous material.
While A Boy Named Charlie Brown lacks a truly brilliant song like "Christmas Time Is Here," it nevertheless is a great album of piano jazz that proves when given a concept Guaraldi was a fine composer. The best improviser on the Peanuts specials may be the trombone player who does the voice of the teacher, but Guaraldi can lay claim to creating the material that gave them their spirit.
Track Listing: 1. Oh Good Grief 2. Pebble Beach 3. Happiness 4. Schroeder 5. Charlie Brown Theme 6. Linus and Lucy 7. Blue Charlie Brown 8. Baseball Theme 9. Freda (With the Naturally Curly Hair) 10. Fly Me To the Moon.
Personnel: Vince Guaraldi - piano; Monty Budwig - bass; Colin Bailey - drums.