By Emily Carney
In the last six months, Fantasy Records and Riverside Records (through Concord Music Group) released compilations detailing the best selections of jazz behemoths, including Vince Guaraldi (on Fantasy) and The Bill Evans Trio (on Riverside). Both compilations are great primers for those interested in getting a feel for both artists.
Vince Guaraldi was a jazz pianist and immortally associated with “Linus and Lucy,” otherwise known as the music from the Charlie Brown TV specials. This disc, featuring 14 of his best cuts, reflects that fame and has the iconic songs from those shows (“Linus…” as well as “Charlie Brown Theme,” “Christmas is Coming,” and “Christmas Time is Here”).
Listeners might also be surprised at Guaraldi’s more Latin-infused tunes, such as “Ginza” and “Outra Vez.” The very best tune is probably the first track, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” which won Guaraldi a Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. While he may be associated with Snoopy’s maniacal dancing and the Peanuts’ Gang parties, Vince Guaraldi served up so much more for his fans. This disc makes that known. These are tunes that make the heart rejoice.
The Bill Evans Trio, headed by legendary and tragic jazz pianist Bill Evans, is lovingly summed up in this Very Best Of compilation. The disc’s booklet is careful to denote that this group had three members, including bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. Indeed, each member was indispensable to the group’s New Jazz sound. New and old listeners will enjoy the upbeat tone and simple beauty of the selections in this disc.
Each track lives up to the group’s legacy, especially “Blue in Green” and Miles Davis tracks such as “Nardis” and “Solar.” Sadly, the group was short-lived; bassist LaFaro would unfortunately pass away in a car wreck, which left Evans emotionally bereft. A reformulated trio would release the beautifully sad Moon Beams in 1962 (previously reviewed in Popshifter), another essential jazz purchase.
The Very Best of Vince Guaraldi and The Very Best Of The Bill Evans Trio are both essential additions to those just getting into the jazz canon or listeners simply craving the best selections both artists have to offer. These discs are wonderful for cruising around in the car or chillin’ on a Sunday morning.