CBC RADIO DOC:
2016 – dateline: VANCOUVER
Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas with the Jerry Granelli Trio
Dec. 9, 8 p.m. | Kay Meek Centre, 1700 Mathers Ave., West Vancouver.
Tickets: $15-$38, 604-981-6335, kaymeekcentre.com
In the 1960s, San Francisco-born drummer Jerry Granelli was a fixture on the Bay Area hard bop scene as well as in psychedelic sessions for such luminaries as Sly Stone. Along with bassist Fred Marshall, he formed the rhythm section in the Vince Guaraldi Trio. In the spring of 1965, pianist Guaraldi was commissioned to write the music for an animated half-hour Christmas special featuring characters from Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts.
A Charlie Brown Christmas went on to become a triple-platinum holiday classic that still ranks in the top Christmas album sales over five decades later. The soundtrack is in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Pretty impressive for a session that the Halifax-based Granelli, 75, recalls as being “counted down by the clock.” The sole, surviving member of the original recording group, Granelli with bassist Simon Fisk and pianist Chris Gestrin revisits the now legendary session in live performance at Kay Meek Centre.
“Honestly, for many years I really didn’t want to talk much about it,” said Granelli. “That was something I had done and the group went its way and I went the other into a different kind of thing. But I’m over that now, because the truth is that this is some really great music and so much fun to play with this great group.”
Issues ranging from not being credited on the initial release of A Charlie Brown Christmas to the fairly straight-ahead nature of the Guaraldi group’s style eventually led to Granelli leaving the trio. The avant-garde and free improvisation beckoned and the drummer gained increasing renown in the acclaimed Danny Zeitlen Trio, which tied with the Miles Davis Quintet for Group of the Year in the Downbeat Magazine Critics and Readers Poll in 1965. He has maintained a steady recording and performing schedule as well as holding down such teaching positions as the director of jazz and popular music department at the Canadian Conservatory in Halifax and co-founding the Atlantic Jazz Festival with Susan Hunter.
Those familiar with his work know his penchant for loud, often rocking fusions. Granelli says this came directly out of the psychedelic era’s cross-genre pollinations.
“It was a pretty incredible time to be a musician with so much going on and audiences so receptive to everything,” he said. “I think that I never really lost sight of that and my whole career has been exploring the different areas of art.”
So does going back to the Charlie Brown sound seem easy, or even perhaps dull?
“Not at all, the music is incredibly groovy and demanding in its own way,” he said. “Vince was a fine composer and versitile player and he, Fred and I could really cook. So putting together this trio to tour the show, I had to find complimentary musicians who could really handle the material and Simon and Chris are perfect at presenting the material and also making it their own.”
Of course, to fully present A Charlie Brown Christmas means you must have a children’s choir to sing the two signature tunes such as Christmas Time Is Here. For the Vancouver performance, the Coastal Sound Children’s Choir will appear in the 75-minute production. Started as an honour choir for students in the Coquitlam school district 26 years ago, the project developed into the Coastal Sound Music Academy, which today offers choral programs for all ages.
While he won’t deny that he needs to warm up a bit more than he once did and sleep is essential, Granelli maintains an incredibly busy schedule pursuing his passion for percussive arts in a myriad of formats. Following the Charlie Brown tour, he’ll be taking up residence at saxophonist/composer John Zorn’s club The Stone in New York City from Jan. 3 to 8.
“I’m pretty excited about it as there will be a 30th anniversary of my album Sound Songs with vocalist Jay Clayton with a band that includes my son, bassist J. Anthony Granelli,” he said. “Billy Hart and I are doing a drum duet, and other nights include keyboardist Jamie Saft, trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Mark Dresser and more. Really, I love my job.”
Published on: November 18, 2016
The 2016 CROSS CANADA TOUR: NOVEMBER 26TH – DECEMBER 10TH
Nov 26: Calgary AB:
Nov 27: Banff AB
Dec 1: Ottawa ON
Dec 2: Sudbury ON
Dec 4: Halifax NS
Dec 9: Vancouver BC
Dec 10: Victoria BC