The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra salutes legendary jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi with “The Jazz Music of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’” featuring the Jim Martinez Quartet Saturday, Dec. 28, at the Schuster Center.
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Known for such classics as “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Linus and Lucy,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the 1965 hallmark of Guaraldi’s legacy, which continues to inspire generations. It’s hard to fathom Charles M. Schulz, Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez’s iconic, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning animated TV special without the composer’s beautiful, breezy music.
Steinway artist Jim Martinez, who began his musical career at the age of 4 and has 18 years of classical training, is a longtime fan of Guaraldi, who passed away in 1976 at the age of 47. He’s excited to share details of his connection to the composer as well as the Schulz family in a holiday concert he has performed with members of his quartet for over 20 years. In fact, his show is now being featured with pops and symphony orchestras from Florida to California. His quartet includes Tim Berens on guitar, Paul Keller on bass, Tim Metz on drums, and, for this performance, vocalist Sarah D’Angelo.
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In advance of his appearance, Martinez discussed Guaraldi’s impact and influence.
Q: What makes the tapestry of Guaraldi’s score so charming?
A: For me, "Linus and Lucy" is the happiest song ever written. You can play it for anyone whether they're 90 years old or 9 years old. When you hear it, no matter what age you are, you get happy and feel like dancing, and I think that's the pinnacle of the "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack. But he also takes certain Christmas songs and puts his own jazz flavor to it. What made his piano playing so amazing was the fact that even though he wasn't as intellectually deep as Miles Davis or showy as Oscar Peterson, he … wrote great jazz and played it in a way that appealed to jazz lovers and people who didn't know jazz.
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Q: What do you hope audiences take away from your interpretations?
A: To mix a jazz quartet with an orchestra is so beautiful. Our arranger, Tim Berens, is a member of the Cincinnati Pops and also a friend of mine. Although I'm putting my own spin on Guaraldi's arrangements, Tim did the orchestral arrangements. He has made so many of these songs come to life. Most importantly, I hope the audience really enjoys hearing the music they've heard for years a little differently due to the (presence) of the orchestra. When you add that dimension, the songs have a whole new vibe. For example, "Angels We Have Heard on High" is played here as a samba. I think the audience will enjoy hearing certain songs with a twist backed by an orchestra they love. And even though the concert takes place after Christmas, I hope it continues the Christmas spirit into the new year.
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Q: And when it comes to jazz, do you feel concerts such as yours helps build more interest in the art form?
A: I'm in love with jazz because you don't get to hear jazz in the mainstream every day anymore. We are in a rock/pop/hip-hop world. Whenever we can get jazz on a bigger stage like the Schuster Center, it reminds people not to forget about jazz. Jazz is America's only original art form, created right here in the United States. Considering jazz is kind of getting crowded out of the (mainstream), concerts like ours are a blessing. We want people to walk away wanting to get to know about Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and all the other jazz greats because jazz is pretty cool.
HOW TO GO
What: "The Jazz Music of A Charlie Brown Christmas"
Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28
Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com
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