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Vince Guaraldi Trio

Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

(Original Jazz Classics; US: 28 Sep 2010; UK: Import)

Before Vince Guaraldi wrote his unforgettable Charlie Brown scores, he had already made quite a name for himself on the jazz scene with his trio. No small amount of that success is due to Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. Like the movie whose music he reinterprets, Guaraldi takes a brilliant original and marks it with his own undeniable spin. The film, which reimagines the Orpheus legend amid Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro, was alive with the sound of Brazilian music. Here, Guaraldi takes that sound—with its touches of Latin and African music—and translates it into his own smooth, piano-driven jazz. He smartly never saps these songs of their danceable energy, thanks in part to the inventive percussion of Colin Bailey. As Guaraldi floats around on the keys during “Samba de Orpheus”, Bailey is snapping brushes off the toms. Even as Guaraldi gets a little dreamy on “Felicidade”, Bailey still shuffles the song along at an angular and striking pace. On top of these impressive versions of the film’s music, the album also contains some striking originals, including “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”, which was a rare instrumental jazz hit single, and sounds just as fresh today as it ever did. The extras that come with this remastered version are mostly alternate takes that will satisfy the serious jazz collectors out there. The rest of the crowd, though, need not be jazz historians to appreciate the greatness of this sound. Like the film itself, this stuff is irrepressible and awfully easy to get excited about.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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