Saturday, December 06, 2014
Vince Guaraldi – “Joe Cool” from Peanuts Portraits (2010 Concord Music Group)


Like you, perhaps, I’ve always enjoyed Vince Guaraldi’s contribution to the Peanuts specials that accompanied the holidays. It was a magical time for piano jazz, really, with Vince playing “Linus and Lucy” and Johnny Costa weaving together the soundtrack to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

As an adult, however, I’ve had mixed results with the Vince Guaraldi downloads. The Latin Side of Vince Guaraldi, for instance, is pretty great, while Peanuts Portraits is more of a mixed bag. “Joe Cool” definitely sounds different than maybe what we expect from Guaraldi. It’s certainly no “O Tannenbaum,” but it is pretty fantastic in its own rite.

To say that it has a 1970s “Schoolhouse Rock” quality to it would be an understatement. I need to apologize here for my lack of Peanuts trivia (and I feel terrible about this, having once worked at the very high school that produced Charles Schultz), but this is clearly Snoopy’s theme song, and it works as such. Apparently there are lyrics that have at time appeared on specials, but this version is instrumental, provided that we allow that the human whistle is an instrument.

I think my favorite part of this song, aside from the Stevie Wonder electric piano fart bass, is how muted the horn parts are in the mix. They sound so far away, it’s almost as if they are being sampled, which gives the song, well, not quite an edge, but something pretty great anyway, almost as great as the photo portrait of Guaraldi above.

Stay tuned — it’s possible Vince and company will make an appearance during an upcoming Twelve Shuffles of Christmas feature.


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