There’s some blues for Charlie himself. A little funky strutting for Snoopy. A bit of the cool for Lucy. There’s even a classical riff or two for Schroeder. And it’s all in this 45-minute package of jazz-rock fusion recorded by various combinations of musicians in honor of the 40th year of publication of Charles Schulz’s inscrutable comic strip.
Eight of the 11 tunes were written for animated Peanuts TV specials by Vince Guaraldi, whose vaguely ironic music always seemed exactly appropriate for Schulz’s characters. The most familiar theme, “Linus & Lucy,” is played by keyboardist David Benoit.
B.B. King performs a Snoopy subtheme, “Joe Cool” (amended with one of King’s compliments to his guitar, Lucille), and another blues master, Joe Williams, has fun with “Little Birdie,” Guaraldi’s ode to Snoopy’s pal Woodstock.
“Christmas Time Is Here,” which Guaraldi wrote with the TV show’s producer, Lee Mendelson, is charmingly rendered by Patti Austin.
Among the instrumental tracks are Gerry Mulligan’s delicate baritone sax version of “Rain, Rain, Go Away,” Kenny G’s lively reading of Dave Grusin’s tune “Breadline Blues” and the “Charlie Brown Theme,” played by Amani A. W.-Murray, a saxophonist who was 13 years old when the album was made and is clearly, like Charlie himself, sophisticated far beyond his apparent years.
The semisentimental attitude of the project is appealing, and so is the characteristic way in which the sentiment is undercut by a closing snatch of dialogue involving the youngsters who have played the Peanuts cast on the most recent TV specials. What better way to celebrate 40 years of this delightful foolishness than to have Lucy (Jennifer Banko) crow to Charlie (Kaleb Henley), “Happy anniversary, Blockhead!” (GRP)