Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes

Original Facebook post here.
Today's whole-album listen-through: A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of those instances in which the soundtrack surpasses the film it was made for, this record undeniably draws resonance from its childhood association with the Peanuts special, but goes so much further than that, and can be enjoyed entirely on its own, as I have since I discovered it in my freshman year in college (thanks, John Eberhardt), my first holiday season away from home (adding another layer of nostalgia, of course). Heard again with fresh ears, what impresses are not just Vince Guaraldi's cool, cocktail-jazz takes on carols, which have the added merit of sounding pretty tossed-off, or his vaguely Latin-jazz originals ("Linus & Lucy" and the driving "Christmas Is Coming"), but the wintry-warm soundscape he and his trio create: the ice-cube clatter of his piano, the floating haze of the brushed drums (or the faint sleigh-ride slap of the rims), the thrumming warmth of the bass. It doesn't just lend depth of field to the TV special's two-dimensional animation; on its own, it's a sonic winter wonderland as sophisticated or as innocent, as secular or as holy, and as melancholy or cheery as you like it to be. Like pumpkin pie, this record is good enough to have year-round, but more special for being savored seasonally.

Raymond Bokhour See also Ellis Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis' "Joe Cool's Blues." Lot of the same songs with, you know, a Marsalis family feel.
Chris Coffman It's a favorite. Merry Christmas
Emma Jeszke We listened to this last night!
Jamie Painter Young Listening to it now as I read your post.
David Barbour It's also amazing that music this sophisticated was conisdered just the thing for a children's holiday entertainment.
Rob Weinert-Kendt David, you're right, and I've probably sold short Chas Schultz's contribution here. Though the animated specials, including this one, fall way short of the quality of the Peanuts strip in its prime, the choice of Guaraldi is utterly consistent with Schultz's own quirky sophistication and his stubborn refusal to talk down to kids.

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