Love Will Come: The Music Of Vince Guaraldi Volume 2
RCA Victor, 2009
REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/09/2010
“There are three composers that I have at one time or another tried to play all of their songs,” pianist George Winston says in the liner notes of his 2009 album Love Will Come: The Music Of Vince Guaraldi Volume 2. “New Orleans R&B pianist Professor Longhair, The Doors, and Vince Guaraldi.” With this release, Winston tackles the music of Vince Guaraldi for the second time.
I must admit that I have not heard Volume 1 and am therefore reviewing this album out of context. Nonetheless, Winston offers us an interesting foray into the vast array of compositions from the famous composer/pianist whose music was the score for Charles Schulz’s famous television cartoon Peanuts. Plain and simply, if you enjoy Guaraldi’s music, then you will enjoy Winston’s renditions; if not, then this is not the album for you.
Winston’s attention to detail spectacularly captures the mood of Guaraldi’s pieces. Most of Guaraldi’s songs are either playful or introspective. Knowing this, Winston approaches them with their original intent in mind. Take “Woodstock,” Guaraldi’s mantra for the little yellow bird. While appropriately lackadaisical, “Woodstock” has the feel of a breezy afternoon at the circus, walking aimlessly from spectacle to spectacle without any other worries. Then, “Woodstock” suddenly turns into an upbeat thrill-ride. Our favorite little yellow bird has found something that excites him.
Love Will Come also provides a thorough history of Guaraldi’s influences. Whether you listen to the boogie-woogie inspired “You’re Elected Charlie Brown/Little Birdie” or the stride throwback “Air Music,” you will be treated to a wonderful concoction of history and innovation, tradition and experimentation. Of course, Guaraldi was just as influenced by his geography as he was by other musicians. Much like Fats Domino’s music is indelibly tied to New Orleans, Vince Guaraldi’s compositions synergize the sound and feel of San Francisco. The album cover displays a pristine photograph of beautiful green hills amidst a backdrop of the city fading into the ocean. Likewise, Winston illuminates the contrast of a laidback mountain feel with the busy mindset of big city.
Winston’s attention to detail and immaculate capturing of Guaraldi’s tone comes at an expense; save for some arrangement input and the inclusion of one original song (the “Slow Dance” portion of “Love Will Come/Slow Dance”), Winston includes little of his own artistry in his interpretations. At times, I found Winston’s playing indecipherable from Guaraldi’s. Thinking back on tribute albums where the artist provides a new interpretation to previously established songs (most poignant for me is Herbie Hancock’s Gershwin and Joni Mitchell’s Mingus), I found myself wishing Winston did the same thing.
Nonetheless, Winston did introduce me to some Guaraldi tunes I have never heard before. Included on Love Will Come is the previously unreleased romantic ballad “Love Will Come 2,” a tear-jerking pleasure. I am also grateful that Winston introduced me to “Room At The Bottom,” a beautiful, simple, and joyful piece originally released on Guaraldi’s A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing. This has quickly become my favorite Guaraldi song and I have not even heard the original! (New project: find the original recording and learn “Room At The Bottom” on piano).
Essentially, your appreciation of Love Has Come depends on what you are looking for. As a homage to one of jazz’s most famous composers, it succeeds gloriously. As an individualistic artistic work, it is lacking, although this may not have been Winston’s intention. Nonetheless, Guaraldi’s music has positively effected millions of people and I have an inkling that San Francisco’s music scene benefits greatly from Winston sharing the love, pain, and joy that is woven into Guaraldi’s musical landscape.