“Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” Documentary Re-Discovers Long-Lost Jazz Treasures

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Rare films and unreleased music come to light in a new documentary on Vince Guaraldi, who composed the music for "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Vince Guaraldi, the man who composed "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas", in the recording studio in 1962.

Vince Guaraldi in the recording studio, from the new music documentary "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi"

Let's agree that Vince Guaraldi re-invented the sound of the modern American Christmas

More than 50 years ago, noted music critic Ralph J. Gleason took movie cameras into jazz legend Vince Guaraldi’s studio to capture the recording of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” and the album “Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus.” These original films, forgotten in the Gleason family’s attic for decades, have been restored in high definition and are featured in “The Anatomy Of Vince Guaraldi” — an award-winning feature documentary coming to home video for the 2016 holiday season.

“This might be the ‘Holy Grail’ for jazz lovers, especially those who fell in love with Vince’s popular music for the Peanuts shows,” says Toby Gleason, Ralph’s son who co-produced the documentary with filmmaker Andrew Thomas. “These early sessions took place in 1962, but we were able to uncover even more unseen film and unpublished audio recordings from later years to expand Vince’s story through his premature death in the mid-1970s.”

This story includes Guaraldi’s struggle with Fantasy Records, his composing of the world’s very first “Jazz Mass”, the massive success of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, and, of course, the music for the Charlie Brown specials. Vince is widely acknowledged as the inspiration for Snoopy’s “Joe Cool” character. Ralph J. Gleason went on to become co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

“Many fans don’t realize that films of Vince Guaraldi even exist,” explains Thomas. “And even we were surprised to find performances, interviews, and shots of Vince wandering through the jazz clubs of North Beach in San Francisco. This rare footage illustrates a vibrant time in music, and it’s completely fresh.”

“The Anatomy Of Vince Guaraldi” also features exclusive performances and participation from Vince’s friends, including Dave Brubeck, Dick Gregory, George Winston, Jon Hendricks, and John Handy. Also appearing are members of Guaraldi’s band, Eddie Duran, Dean Reilly, and Jerry Granelli. Lenny Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce, adds stories from the days Lenny shared the stage with Vince at the Hungry i nightclub, and both Professor Irwin Corey (the World’s Foremost Authority) and writer/director Paul Mazursky describe the club’s unrestrained, unconventional spirit.

“Lee Mendelson, the producer of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, was so gracious to join us to explain how Vince created the iconic ‘Linus & Lucy’ theme,” says Gleason. “George Winston tells us that this melody set him on a lifetime of composing jazz. And let’s just agree that Vince Guaraldi re-invented the sound of the modern American Christmas.”

Already featured at various international film festivals, “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” has received five “Best Documentary” awards, and was a special presentation at the Library of Congress and the Monterey Jazz Festival. But it has never been available for home video or streaming. “We’re asking for help in this effort,” admits Gleason.

“We have a Kickstarter campaign (link) to allow us to cover the additional music licensing requirements and, as a premium, it will be the first opportunity to enjoy a copy of the film. You can even get your name featured permanently on the credits.”

More information on the production, along with clips and a trailer, is available on the film’s website: http://www.anatomyofvinceguaraldi.com.

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