Sign in | Log in

Life & People

Vince Guaraldi--“the sound of Yuletide on these shores”

Laura E. Ruberto (December 24, 2010)

Some Italian-American notes about the man behind the music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

This work may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission.
Questo lavoro non può essere riprodotto, in tutto o in parte, senza permesso scritto.

Thanks for the great article. New Guaraldi bio released!

Thanks so much for this wonderful article, with its unique insights into the heritage of Vince Guaraldi, one of my all-time favorite musician-composers. Thought you might be interested, too: I just finished the brand new book-length biography "Vince Guaraldi at the Piano" by Derrick Bang ( It's a great read and (hard to believe) the first ever, full length Guaraldi bio. It also turns out that its release coincides with the 50th anniversary of the release of Guaraldi's breakout hit, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" in April 1962. Thank you Vince, for all these years of joyful music!

Thank you for this

Thank you for this thoroughly enjoyable post! Vince Guaraldi will always have a special place in my heart, along with Erroll Garner, as one of the pianists I heard in my youth that made me want to learn to play the piano. I think that Guaraldi is often dismissed by jazz critics as a popularizer - the worst thing a jazz musician can be, I suppose, is viable in the mainstream market. And, of course, he's from the West Coast scene of the 1950s/1960s that is generally - wrongly, I believe - cast aside as so cool that it barely cooks and never swings. It's too bad, because Guaraldi really did his own thing: cooked up a jazz that, along with his one-time band leader, Cal Tjader, assimilated samba and bossa nova rhythms into a hard bop milieu that did indeed swing. He had a gift for composition. He was also one of the most distinctive pianists: you know it's him within the first few measures. I was happy to read here about his commitment to social issues (I have an old FM tape of him playing with Carlos Santana in 1972 at a benefit for Marin College - not sure of the particulars), something I do believe he shares in common with many Italian American musicians, but is often overlooked. As you mention, the only IA references seem to involve his temper, which is unfortunate (and many don't even mention an IA heritage, which is symptom of a larger problem: disappearing IA and the mainstream belief that IA ethnicity is purely superficial)... there must be a lot more there, and I would love to learn more about the community in which he was raised. I think the book about Italian American jazz musicians is dying to be written (and hopefully when it is written it will be by someone, like yourself, who understands that the IA experience is more than a vowel at the end of your name and a bowl of pasta on your table). Until then, I do hope to see this documentary and learn more. Thanks again for honoring Vince Guaraldi and for raising some engaging questions about IA musicians.

lruberto's picture

guaraldi & italian americana

Thanks, Anthony, you are right--there is so much more to say about Guaraldi in connection to Italian American culture and history (and if you add the amazing popularity of Snoopy/Charlie Brown in Italy to the mix there is even more material to engage with). It was great fun to throw some of the connections together here but I barely skimmed the surface to be sure. What a treasure to have that old tape of him at Marin College! I haven't seen the new documentary yet about him but I believe there are clips of some of the Free Speech movement concerts and the like. grazie ancora, Laura Ruberto