Some late-breaking news here on the jazz front; tonight at Vagabond, the club fast becoming the epicenter of this city’s underrated jazz scene, bassist Andrew Randazzo will lead a brand-new 15 piece big band through a tribute to the music of Vince Guaraldi, best known for his classic soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Randazzo’s new project, stylized the R4ND4ZZO BIGB4ND, is decidedly different from the work that’s brought him the majority of his local fame; holding down the groove for jazz-funk instrumental quintet Butcher Brown. That group, which also includes local renaissance man Devonne Harris, aka DJ Harrison, just held a celebratory release show for their Live At Vagabond LP last Friday night. Now Randazzo returns to that club only three days later at the head of a very different ensemble.
Randazzo and his 15 piece big band will be paying tribute to pianist Vince Guaraldi, whose work ascended from the California cool jazz scene of the 50s and 60s. At the head of an understated trio, Guaraldi delighted listeners with smoothly swinging trips through quietly beautiful melodies. “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” which reached #10 on the US pop charts in 1962 when it was released, may have been the biggest hit he achieved during his lifetime.
If he’s remembered today, though, it’s for his work as the principal musical composer on the Peanuts cartoons, most notably the first of these, A Charlie Brown Christmas. On this soundtrack, Guaraldi and his trio bring their understated melodic sense to bear on a series of holiday standards including “O Tannenbaum” and “What Child Is This,” as well as a series of original compositions, including the entrancing “Christmas Time Is Here” and the delightful “Skating.”
But it’s “Linus And Lucy,” the song which became the Peanuts cartoon theme music, that people know best today. You’ll hear it regularly on the stations that went to the “all Christmas music all the time” format about a week into November, even though it is not, strictly speaking, a Christmas song at all. And unlike a lot of the songs on those stations, it never gets old.
Of course, as we mentioned, Guaraldi did his best-known work at the head of a small trio that only added bass and drums to his wonderful piano melodies. It will therefore be very interesting to see what Andrew Randazzo’s 15-piece ensemble does with these relatively minimal songs. Whether they’ll thicken them up considerably and bring in the funk feel of Randazzo’s other projects, add delicate layers of sound atop the skeletons of the original compositions, or take some completely new approach, you can be sure that the results will be fascinating, and well worth your time.
After all, Christmas is but one week away. While Guaraldi’s music was by no means focused on this one holiday, it’s impossible to imagine a mid-December tribute to his work that does not also work perfectly as a celebration of the loveliest music of this holiday season. And who better to bring us that celebration than a pillar of the local jazz community like Andrew Randazzo? There’s no real info out there about who will be backing him up in this band, but suffice it to say that the man has plenty of connections–it won’t be a collection of talentless hacks, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.
And then you can still use that dollar to buy a cheap drink from the bar at Vagabond, because you won’t have to shell it out to cover admission. That’s because this show is FREE! It starts at 9 tonight, at Vagabond, which is located at 700 E. Broad St. Click here for more info, and be there with bells on. Both for the insatiable jazz cats and for those who are merely in the holiday spirit (and at this point, you’d hope we all are), this is the place to be tonight.