While many consider Vince Guaraldi's musical contributions to the Charlie Brown television cartoons to be jazz "lite," there are many more who could care less what they think, and there are still more who realize that the late Mr. Guaraldi was a first-rate composer who understood no bounds when it came to creative music. His recordings for Black Orpheus and his sessions with Cal Tjader and Bola Sete reveal a restless musical mind that was far more interested in the nuance of jazz possibility than street credibility. This Bluebird set, comprising the entire 40-minute, seven-section "Charlie Brown Suite," was recorded live at Mr. D's, a famous jazz club in San Francisco, in 1968. This performance has been unearthed from more than 80 hours of unreleased Guaraldi material in an estate looked after by his son, who, along with producer Dawn Atkinson, assembled the tapes for remastering and release for the first time ever. Accompanying Mr. Guaraldi are his own trio and the Amici Della Music Ensemble under the direction of Richard Williams. While audience and bandstand noise is present, so is musical whimsy bordering on genius. The seemingly simple harmonics and snappy melodies that comprised the Charlie Brown pieces are merely the springboard for dizzying, dreamy, and rhythmically advanced, sophisticated composition and arrangement. These seven pieces are, in their way, one of the great treasures in American music and haunted by childlike nursery rhymes while being saturated in jazz; they comprise something unique in the vernacular and are a sheer, warm delight for virtually anyone but the most snobbish and harmonically challenged to listen to. Fans of vanguard jazz and "new" music only need not apply, this is over your head (after all, it has heart and emotion). In addition to the suite, there are three other unique pieces: the original mixes of "Linus & Lucy With Band" and "The Charlie Brown Theme" recorded at Wally Heider's -- the latter complete with harpsichord solo -- and a unique, live, longer version of Guaraldi's hit "Cast Our Fate to the Wind." What all this adds up to is an amazing package that has come from out of the blue to enrich the catalog of one of the great unsung compositional masters in American music.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek