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Spins: The Vince Guaraldi Quintet • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Original Soundtrack Recording

| November 8, 2023

The Vince Guaraldi Quintet

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:

Original Soundtrack Recording


Following 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, 1973 saw the arrival of the third Peanuts holiday special with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Fifty years after first airing, the cartoon’s complete soundtrack is released as a vinyl LP for the first time. Millions are familiar with the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s evergreen soundtrack for the animated Christmas program, which popularized jazz for a new generation and continues to serve as an accessible and engaging gateway to the genre.

For Thanksgiving, the pianist’s band expanded to include five players with a new rhythm section. In addition to the core of Guaraldi’s piano, Mike Clark’s drums, and Seward McCain’s bass, the ensemble featured Tom Harrell’s trumpet and other brass and Chuck Bennett’s trombone. Guaraldi worked with arranger and orchestrator John Scott Trotter.

The main themes and cues for the 25-minute cartoon comprise 19 minutes of music on the LP’s A-side. Side B includes reprised themes used in the special, plus previously unheard alternate takes and bonus mixes.

The set begins with “Charlie Brown Blues,” an uptempo stroll featuring Clark’s brushed snare and McCain’s walking bass as Guaraldi’s piano dances across the top.

Befitting the music’s use in a series, Guaraldi’s score includes audible callbacks to earlier Peanuts themes while using his broadened sonic palette. “Thanksgiving Theme” includes some of the nimble motion, arpeggiated and harmonized top lines that marked the sound of “Skating” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. A glistening electric piano colors the sound here. The “Peppermint Patty” theme is a gentle but driving pop theme with a descending hook that recalls the lively “Christmas is Coming” song that scored the Christmas special’s famous dance scene. Harrell adds an improvisational solo on the flute.

Those familiar only with Guaraldi’s most popular collection may be surprised to learn that he was a soulful singer, as heard on this set’s R&B theme, “Little Birdie,” which describes Snoopy’s faithful pal Woodstock. The song grooves atop funky clavinet and is punctuated by expressive brass. “Is It James or Charlie?” is a blues number that adds Guaraldi’s improvisational jazz guitar noodling to a slinky groove.

The well-known “Linus and Lucy” theme is retooled with the quintet’s fuller sound and a bit more of the early ‘70s spunky soul influence. Guaraldi’s free-spirited piano calls are answered by gliding horns. After leaving the bottom line to Guaraldi’s left hand during the verses, McCain’s bass part moves to the fore and weaves through Guaraldi’s sparkling piano solos and Harrell’s flight on trumpet. The main program concludes with “Fife & Drums Theme,” featuring martial drums and Harrell’s military-style trumpet melody.

Audio quality is top-notch, benefitting from high-resolution transfers from original 1973 stereo master tapes.

– Jeff Elbel

7 out of possible 10

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Category: Featured, Spins

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