Damien Jurado takes on Vince Guaraldi’s yuletide classic, “Christmas Time Is Here.” Culled from 90% of your social circle’s favorite Christmas album, it’s a brave choice met with spirited results.

Damien Jurado :: Christmas Time Is Here

Related: Do not miss our interview with drummer Jerry Granelli discussing his work with the Vince Guaraldi trio laying down 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

CBC

For many listeners, the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s music for 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas represents the best of the season, its sounds patient, relaxed, and warm. For drummer Jerry Granelli, it’s all those things, but it’s also something else: a beginning.

Since that fateful start, he hasn’t wasted any time. Over the course of his more than 60 years playing music, Granelli’s performed with Charlie Haden, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman, Denny Zeitlen, Ralph Towner, and many more. Musically and spiritually adventurous, he spent time with the Dead, studied with poets Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, and devoted himself to Buddhism, painting, and family life.

On his new album, a collaboration with guitarists Bill Frisell and Robben Ford, along with bassist (and son) J. Anthony Granelli called Dance Hall, Granelli returns to one of his earliest loves: the sound of R&B. It’s a soft and soulful recording, a demonstration not so much of the experimentalism that has driven much of his work, but instead a heartfelt dedication to songcraft, the same sort of devotion that guided his work with Vince Guaraldi (recently reissued by Craft Recordings in a deluxe 180g format).

We caught up with Granelli from his place in Halifax, Nova Scotia to discuss his storied career, revisiting of the Guaraldi Trio work with his “Tales Of A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Dance Hall, and how a Buddhist avant-garde drummer still connects to Charles Schultz’s Christmas spirit.

Aquarium Drunkard: It took years for you to be properly credited on A Charlie Brown Christmas. What was the holdup?

Jerry Granelli: I don’t know. [Laughs] It was the beginning of what I jokingly call my career, you know? It wasn’t that big a deal. It was like, “Okay, I was with Vince, and this is one of the things I did with Vince.” It was a real start for me in terms of people like Ralph Gleason and national critics writing about me, but then I went on to record with Denny Zeitlin and Charlie Haden. I wasn’t paying attention, really. Somebody blew it up on the internet at some point, they said, “What a minute, I know Jerry Granelli [played on the record]”…They just never bothered to keep track of it. Eventually, they credited me, then they credited [additional drummer] Colin Bailey with some of it. But they just didn’t keep records back then. It sounds like I’m talking about ancient times: “The first records, my son.” [Laughs]

AD: You’d been playing with Vince Guaraldi for a while. What kind of discussions did you guys have about the compositions for A Charlie Brown Christmas?

Jerry Granelli: We knew the feeling. We knew the feeling of Charlie Brown; we knew the feeling of Charlie Schulz. We’d tried to [soundtrack] a documentary about him before making the Christmas special: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But nobody wanted it. So we’d already had some of the flavor. Charlie Brown cartoons, you saw them every day in The San Francisco Chronicle and all over the country. We had a relationship with Charlie and his wife and family. Charlie Brown is pathetic, sarcastic, wise, and playful, all at the same time, very much like Vince Guaraldi. We were just trying to catch the feeling of it, man. Vince had these tunes — some of which had been written for other things — and he pulled one or two out. He’d bring another in, and we’d rehearse it, play it out on a gig, and then we just went in and did it. It was really simple. I wish I could make up a great wonderful story about the art coming from the heavens or something, but it felt pretty simple. And honest. Vince always demanded we played our hearts out. We played our best. But that music is simple…when I play it live, we really play it, man.

AD: Your brushwork on the recordings is beautiful. This is one of the lps that made a lot of people fall in love with jazz, myself certainly included. You spoke about getting the “feel” right. The music here is sweet but it’s tinged with melancholy.

Jerry Granelli: Oh, yeah.

blitzenTrapper_v1

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Next Friday, Blitzen Trapper touch down in Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theater in support of their new long-player, Wild And Reckless. Inspired by the band’s theatrical production of the same name, the album is a self-described paean to ‘straight-up rock ‘n roll and deconstructed weirdness.’ Riffs, grooves, three-part harmonies and guitar solos. Darkness, a voice and a piano. For this installment of the series, BT head-honcho Eric Earley covers the Pink Floyd campfire chestnut, “Wish You Were Here”, along with Lady Gaga. Earley, in his own words, below.

Blitzen Trapper :: Million Reasons (Lady Gaga)

I randomly listened to this track when it appeared in a Spotify release list or something and was instantly hooked by the seeming honesty of this ‘break-up’ song, which isn’t a type of song I’m generally attracted to or would write myself but there’s this kind of desperation LG puts out on this one that got me. Wanted to sing it mainly to get it out of my system. Such a fine, simple piece for a massive Top 40 artist to pen.

doug sahm

Tradition runs rampant around Thanksgiving: generations of old recipes, football, Alice’s Restaurant, The Last Waltz, and, of course, a parade of balloons shutting down NYC. What else do you need? If you thought you were covered in the Thanksgiving tradition department, we did too…until a few years ago, when someone blew the dust off a long lost tape — Doug Sahm’s Thanksgiving Jam.

Thanksgiving weekend, 1972: the Grateful Dead found themselves in Austin, allowing Garcia and Lesh to rendezvous with an old Bay Area running buddy, Mr. Tex-Mex himself, Doug Sahm, and piano-journeyman Leon Russell, at the famed Armadillo World Headquarters for a musical cornucopia of roots music. No genre was left untouched – blues, bluegrass, R&B, rock & roll, honky tonk and, naturally, Bob Dylan. All played with an ad hoc band, including members of Texas psychedelic pranksters The 13th Floor Elevators and Shiva’s Headband, with a setlist that effortlessly bounces from hellcat versions of Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee” and the Stones’ “Wild Horses”, to a don’t-spill-your-beer “T For Texas”, saddled with stompin-the-nails-out-of-the-floorboard cuts like “Hey Bo Diddley” and “Money Honey”. This is a shitkicker of show, best served turned up, with fistfuls of turkey and pint glass of your favorite sumthin’. words/ d norsen

download/tracklisting after the jump…

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It’s no secret Jerry Garcia was a freak of nature when it came to juggling his time with the Grateful Dead and multiple side projects. In 1970 alone, he was riding high on the FM radio success of American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, which kept the band truckin’ endlessly and tirelessly from university to city theaters. Garcia was averaging four sets an evening, spending upwards of four-plus hours or more on stage. First, an opening set with new country rock group New Riders of the Purple Sage and then three more hours with the Dead. For most folks, getting home from a tour like that would be cause for hibernation and chill out for a while, but instead, Garcia was often found in late night pick-up jams around the Bay Area. One such musician’s haven was the Matrix, a unique free-for-all club originally owned by Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane. The haunt catered to the greatest of the hippie ideals of the 1960s: Come all ye faithful and jam.

Towards the tail end of the ’60s, Garcia was introduced to a Hammond B3 player by the name of Howard Wales, who held a jam session every Monday night at the Matrix. Howard had a fiery and otherworldly approach to playing, keeping the evenings fresh and fun for all involved, especially Jerry, who started coming down more regularly to play along with a core rhythm section of John Kahn on bass and Bill Vitt on drums. The gigs were kept loose, so naturally the band veered towards jazz — possibly best described as ‘Owsley Acid Jazz’. The ad hoc gatherings resulted in a 1971 studio album entitled Hooteroll? – a 35-minute album that became a clandestine notch in the discography of Jerry and his cohorts.

Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia :: Space Funk

This coming Record Store Day (Black Friday), the Jerry Garcia Estate is set to reissue antother of Wales and Garcia’s recorded collaborations: Side Trips, Volume 1, available for the first time since 1998. The 2-LP set — recorded in 1970 at the Matrix — is available in a limited-edition run of 2500, expertly pressed by MPO and sure to disappear quickly.

We recently caught up with Wales to explore his time with Garcia and their relationship both on and off the stage. Below is our rap with one of the more mythical musicians in the Grateful Dead orbit. words / d norsen

major

Welcome to Aquarium Drunkard’s recurring Transmissions podcast. In the first half of this month’s episode, we tune into a discussion with Paul Major, legendary record dealer and frontman of Endless Boogie.

Earlier this year, we published an interview with Major and he played selector on the Aquarium Drunkard Show on Sirius XM, pulling out rare psych, private press oddities, and much more. He’s the subject of a new book, Feel The Music: The Psychedelic Worlds of Paul Major, and the compiler of an accompanying soundtrack, Feel the Music Vol. 1, both out on Anthology. The book compiles scans of Major’s rare record catalogs, which featured his hallucinatory music writing, alongside essays by his friends, bandmates, and collaborators. In all, the book and soundtrack illustrate Paul’s attraction to “real people” music and testify to his desire to share the weird music and ideas that turn him on.

Transmissions Podcast :: Paul Major / Favorite Reissues of 2017

In the second half of the show, Aquarium Drunkard founder Justin Gage and co-host Jason P. Woodbury explore the sound of ten of their favorite reissues of 2017, including Jackie Shane, Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978 – 1992, crucial Pharoah Sanders titles, Acetone’s 1992-2001, Alice Coltrane, and more. Check out the full list of reissues after the jump.

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The best compilations peel back the curtain, offering a glimpse at obscured musical traditions, and leave the listener wanting more. No matter what kept American ears from hearing the varied music featured on Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 in the first place – distance, distribution, or general unknowing — the new collection from Light in the Attic introduces a wide breadth of transcendent and sublime musicians. As an introduction and primer to the genres it addresses, Even a Tree leaves a listener clamoring for more from its host of artists. As a master-mixtape, it creates an aesthete and palette that lends itself to repeated listens. And as a historical document exploring a single five-year period, it elicits near-non-stop supplemental web searches, deep dives and YouTube k-holes.

What the compilation is not, is exhaustive. And it is better for it. The biographical and contextual write-ups that accompany each song provide ample information. It also delicately finds a balance between honoring and extolling the featured artists, but not so much as to infer that these were the only artists of the time, or as if they were the only ones worth hearing. The history of the period is learned not through an exhaustive essay (though Yosuke Kitazawa’s serves as an illuminative introduction to both the comp and period as a whole), but through the songs themselves, contextualized within the various scenes across Japan which the artists were reared in.

Kazuhiko Kato :: Arthur Hakase No Jinriki Hikouki