Vince Guaraldi (July 17, 1928 – February 6, 1976) was an Italian-American jazz pianist and composer, best known for his work in animated adaptations of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comic strip. His soundtrack for the classic Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the most best-selling and critically adored Christmas albums of all time, often described as the Christmas album.His often idiosyncratic melodies — light and breezy, but with a deft touch of melancholy — perfectly complimented the spirit of Peanuts, with existential poignancy found beneath what is ostensibly children's entertainment. As a result, his influence in getting younger generations to dig jazz cannot be underestimated.
Partial discography (albums released during his lifetime):
Vince Guaraldi with The San Francisco Boys Chorus (1967)
Oh, Good Grief! (1968)
The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi (1969)
Tropes associated with Vince Guaraldi:
Ascended Fanboy: George Winston, new age pianist. He'd already made a Guaraldi cover album (with a subsequent sequel to follow) by the time his work was included on a 2010 compilation of Peanuts character themes. Suspected reasons for his appearance on the album include the lack of Guaraldi-recorded versions, They Just Didn't Care, or padding.
Badass Mustache: So evocative and iconic of the man himself that it might as well be called a Guaraldi-stache. Sometimes grown into a dense Badass Beard, too.
Christmas Songs: A Charlie Brown Christmas consists mostly of groundbreaking jazz arrangements of Christmas songs from throughout the centuries, but he also composed a few songs of his own, most notably "Christmas Time Is Here", itself now part of the classic Christmas song canon.
Cool Shades: When he wasn't using his regular ol' glasses, that is. Though they're still plenty cool.
Covers Always Lie: The Peanuts compilation Lost Cues, Vol. 1 features a distinctive Christmas theme on the cover, but it features not one Christmas special-related tune. It's been suggested this may just be a cash-in on the recognition factor of A Charlie Brown Christmas and its indelible connection to Guaraldi's name.
Cover Version: His discography saw him tackle a lot of jazz and pop standards, as well as songs by contemporary acts such as The Beatles.note In fact, "Eleanor Rigby" was the final song he played before the intermission break when he died.
Early-Installment Weirdness: His first two albums as bandleader (Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing) use a piano-guitar-bass trio with no drums. They're also more mellow and moody than his later work.
Improv: It's jazz. Vince's distinctive style of playing was based heavily on eloquent phrasing. His patented "runs" frequently moved quickly between light and dark keys. There's a bunch of "vintage" Guaraldi runs that are heard all throughout his discography, though never in entirely the same way.
Instrumentals: His stock in trade; he rarely made vocal works. "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", for instance, is one of a relatively few number of jazz instrumentals to become a hit song, as well as win a Grammy. Ironically, after a poppier instrumental cover by British studio group Sounds Orchestral became an even bigger hit two years later, lyrics were written for it by Carel Werber, and a couple vocal versions became hits as well.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Considering how much he actually composed for Peanuts, a lamentably small part of his body of work has actually seen release. This leaves fans little choice but to rip and circulate recordings from the specials themselves.
Limited Lyrics Song: "Monterey" from ... and The San Francisco Boys Chorus. The chorus just sings wordless vocals with the verse melody, and "Monterey, Monterey" in the refrain.
Lonely Piano Piece: Well, naturally. Probably the one that fits the bill the most is "Rain, Rain Go Away". "Für Elise", "Autumn Leaves", and "Never Never Land" are also among the pieces that feature Guaraldi playing solo.
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus introduced his trademark piano-bass-drums trio format and a new Latin-influenced style.
Oh, Good Grief!, a collection of re-recorded Peanuts themes, showed him moving from his acoustic jazz trio roots towards electric piano and sonic experimentation. The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi continued this trend. Electronic instruments eventually began to make their way into his Peanuts scores as well.
Oh, Good Grief! consists entirely of re-recordings, often with some drastic changes to instrumentation and tempo.
"My Little Drum" from Christmas is a slightly reworked version of "Menino pequeno da bateria"note Meaning... "My Little Drum". from From All Sides. And the melody itself is more or less a slightly modulated version of "The Little Drummer Boy" making it a re-arrangement two times over.
The Short Guy with Glasses: His height has been reported as being 5' 4" or 5' 6" (162 or 167 cm), and he was older than he looked. Apparently he grew his signature mustache after he kept getting carded at the jazz clubs he was playing.
The man himself, though not really one for singing, turned in some memorable work with Peanuts pieces such as "Little Birdie", and of course, Joe Cool's theme. He's got a deadpan, bluesy and slightly mischievous delivery in both that make 'em both really humorous.
He also sang two Cover Versions of Tim Hardin songs on The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi ("Black Sheep Boy", "Reason to Believe").
Theme Tune Cameo: Apparently, "Linus and Lucy" exists within the Peanuts universe itself, as in one special, Good Ol' Charlie Brown himself names it his favorite song, referring to its creator by name.
Unfortunate Name: The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi. Now, granted, it's a play on Anatomy of a Hit, a TV documentary about "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" which is included in the documentary in question, but still.