Various Artists

40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas

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40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas Review

by Rob Theakston

If someone had told Vince Guaraldi in 1965 that his scores for the Charlie Brown specials for children would have been the first exposure to jazz for several generations of impressionable children, chances are the composer would have either shrugged off the statement and paid it no mind or he would have laughed heartily at such a notion. But his score for A Charlie Brown Christmas has remained a cornerstone for jazz orientation and an essential holiday remedy for the run-of-the-mill-predictable contemporary favorites. So it's fitting that, 40 years on, a tribute album paying homage to the landmark soundtrack would hit the market just in time for the holiday season. Producer and smooth-jazz juggernaut David Benoit assembled a veritable who's who of adult contemporary and jazz performers for this 12-song session, including good pal Russ Freeman and his Rippingtons band, Dave Koz, Chaka Khan, Brian McKnight and Toni Braxton. It's a very warm sounding, heavily polished, well-played tribute album full of reverence for the original material, and it's suitable for the generation that were children when Guaraldi's original scores first hit the television airwaves. There's also material that strays ever so slightly from the original soundtrack, but it's a welcome bonus. And while no tribute album could even come close to harnessing the magic of its inspiration, this certainly does the trick in making the word "tribute" appropriate in a world where tribute albums run a dime a dozen.

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