Are we human jukeboxes? meditation on Vince Guaraldi

On Friday, I played at my weekly gig, my musical home. My guest was Aaron, the rock cellist. We come from different worlds, but overlap in unexpected ways.

People were listening: some guy  wanted to talk. The

quIMG_1930estion that came out of his mouth “ Do you know that … Peanuts song? “ He even sang a little bit of it, friendly, but drunken and tunelessly. (In case I had never been asked that question.)

Inside, I balked. I never learned it, and have not wanted to. Aaron came to my rescue, explained a bit who Vince Guaraldi was…coming up in San Francisco, playing the bay area with a jazz trio, writing the song “ Cast fate to the Wind”. Of course, later on Mr. Guaraldi wrote the “ Linus and Lucy” theme, which every jazz pianist is badgered to play. Aaron even played the line on cello, to the man’s delight.

What do I do? I have been writing my own music for tens of years, well at least thirty. I take it seriously because I love it .   And, I am getting thicker skin. Someone once said that I sounded like George Winston,( I cried inside) and I sound like “ PBS music”. Never mind that I live on an aural diet of very wide sounds… from Coltrane, Mingus, Abdullah Ibrahim, Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter, and all the cool young cats like Robert Glasper… and Chicano Batman!

I have nothing against Mr. Guaraldi. I am sorry that he died at age 47, and I am glad that he was able to bring joy to people with his music. It’s really a catchy tune… so why haven’t I learned it?

It’s not mine. This tune is so obviously embedded in the culture, that I don’t want to play it. It’s been played a lot, really, a lot. It is readily available. But… I am not wanting to be a jazz fascist anymore. What do I do?

When walking my dog this morning, the solution occurred to me. The next time someone asks for it, this is what I will say. “Oh that song is great. It is by VINCE GUARALDI ( spell it for them) , YOU SHOULD BUY IT!. I simply don’t play it well enough that I could do it justice.”

Then, I will do two things: add to the estate of Mr. Vince Guaraldi,   and get off the hook of playing it. This will also be a subtle hint to PAY FOR THE MUSIC YOU LIKE, and if you like my playing, HEAR MY PLAYING and don’t try to make me into Vince Guaraldi.

On the other hand, if someone might say .”You sound a lot like Herbie Hancock & Ahmad Jamal. Could you play ‘Dolphin Dance’?” If so, I will scrape myself off the floor, nod in utter amazement, restrain myself from kissing the person, and play the hell out of it.

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