Jazz for Peanuts – Review

Benoit Peanuts

Album Title: Jazz for Peanuts: A Retrospective of the Charlie Brown TV Themes
Cartoon Title: You’re in Love, Charlie Brown
This is America, Charlie Brown
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Artist: Vince Guaraldi, David Benoit, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck,
Don Grusin, Dave Grusin, Kenny G.
Catalog Number: PKD-30454
Release Type: Compilation
Release Date: 2008
Purchase at: Amazon, Amazon MP3, iTunes


Tracklist

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
01. You’re in Love, Charlie Brown David Benoit, Christian Scott 4:06
02. The Buggy Ride Wynton Marsalis Septet 4:37
03. Benjamin Dave Brubeck 3:49
04. The Great Pumpkin Waltz David Benoit 4:19
05. Wild Kids David Benoit, Taylor Eigsti 4:09
06. Breadline Blues Kenny G 4:11
07. Be My Valentine David Benoit 4:37
08. Rollerblading David Benoit, Christian Scott 3:53
09. Re-Run’s Theme David Benoit 3:47
10. Linus and Lucy Vince Guaraldi 3:05

Review: The delightful, traipsing jazzy melodies that make up the Peanuts TV show themes is more than just a whiff of nostalgia that takes me to my younger days. There’s magic at work in the compositions of such luminaries as Vince Guaraldi, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck and David Benoit, who’ve proffered their vision of Charles Schultz’s most iconic comic strip, imbuing it with a light, mellow energy that harkens back to simpler days and simpler times with a touch of the everyday fantastic. As someone who grew up reading Peanuts, the adventures of Charlie Brown and Co. quickly became an indelible part of my childhood. In that vein, David Benoit’s retrospective album, Jazz for Peanuts, helps me relive some of the more memorable moments, as Charles Schultz’s creations truly come to life in this engaging, rollicking work.

And exploring life is where this album excels. Right away, David Benoit’s mellow piano rhythm has us rolling along with a contentment that shifts to exuberance in “You’re in Love Charlie Brown,” as the energy that bubbles forth mesmerizes with its ebb and flow. The brassy, swinging melody, borne mostly by Christian Scott on trumpet and Andy Suzuki on tenor saxophone, creates a layer that seamlessly blends with the rest of the ensemble to create flashes of excitement or letting us sashay along in euphoria. The rest of the ensemble, with a piano that skips along and a saxophone solo that’s tasteful and classy, all contribute to that sense of eager anticipation, not only within the context of love, but to see whether the rest of the album can deliver the same sort of excitement.

You’re in Love Charlie Brown

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Wynton Marsalis is certainly no slouch in delivering excitement and “The Buggy Ride,” with its sax and trumpet call and response routine, springs with a liveliness that is more than up to the task. In listening, I found the phrasing fitting; Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, filled with unrestrained glee, allowing me to survey my environs in wonder, at least, until the sax makes its call to signal that the jittery, but rousing buggy ride is set to bounce along to the next location. Not to be outdone, Dave Brubeck’s “Benjamin” gurgles with whimsy, as Bob Militello’s flute hops about, thrilled by the prospect of taking me on a journey. The tone then mellows out, and by the time the second half rolls around, Brubeck, on piano, gently takes over the reins, guiding me pensively while letting me rediscover bits and pieces of hazy memory, all in a sublime melody.

The Buggy Ride

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Benjamin

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With that, the album moves to calmer waters with Guaraldi’s “The Great Pumpkin Waltz,” which is imbued by an aura of mystery and wonder as it meanders about in search of the title spirit until the buildup to the climax that leaves listeners on a consonance that never quite resolves the mystery. The highlight here is Benoit’s piano and Dave Carpenter’s artistry on bass creating a texture with bouts of anxiety and unfettered anticipation as the wait becomes almost unbearable, along with a touch of doubt to hang over it all. But the excitement makes a return, and how! With David Benoit and Taylor Eigsti, we have the marvel that is “Wild Kids,” where the twinkling, soothing introduction has me eager for the adventure ahead which then materializes in an optimism that builds up to a wonderfully rambunctious cacophony.

Wild Kids

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As the first half of the album comes to a close, the second half begins with Dave Grusin’s “Breadline Blues,” played in a Grammy Award-nominated performance by Kenny G. Given the piece, things take a solemn tone as the funkiness works to enhance the bleakness of the period while the rhythm pulses on to give it a bit of grit and perseverance amidst the hard times. “Be My Valentine” similarly packs a downcast mood, one that murmurs and muddles through Benoit’s piano which conjure a mind filled with fluttering anxieties that yield much sympathy from listeners. The music takes a wistful turn as the piano simply sighs in the face of dreams which clash with anxiety, perfectly illustrated with Dave Carpenter’s bass pizzicato to bring a dithering quality to the track.

Breadline Blues

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But the optimism makes a return once again and Benoit’s animated “Rollerblading” frees us from the gang’s trials and tribulations, letting us freely explore through an airiness that’s packed with quiet contentment. The contentment slowly segues, building and expanding as Christian Scott’s trumpet’s snazzy lines deliver us unto a world filled with innumerable joys and possibilities, setting the world alight in instilling that sense of wonder. “Re-Run’s Theme,” with its optimism, follows well as it brims with a curiosity that rolls along effortlessly in its desire to discover. Here, Andy Suzuki’s flute and Benoit’s piano performance sings with a vibrancy that succeeds in entrancing me through its innocence and energy.

Re-Run’s Theme

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No Peanuts album would be complete without Vince Guaraldi’s iconic “Linus and Lucy” and no matter how many times I’ve heard the piece, it has never failed to enthrall. Its smattering of mischief, its unbounded energy, its curiosity and zest for exploring life, all coming together and delivered through the main theme is already magnificent. But when you throw in the burgeoning exhilaration during the improvisation and this piece seals the deal as it leaves me looking forward to the way in which serendipity will reach out and make life’s journey all the more thrilling.

Linus and Lucy

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Through it all, David Benoit effortlessly weaves, through this album, the musical fabric of my childhood by depicting the Peanuts gang’s travails and triumphs. Complex in its execution, yet simple in the scenes it looks to convey, the melodies continue to dazzle, to refresh, but most of all to leave us excited as it pick us up from the lowest lows and turns our head towards the grand adventure that’s up for the taking. So with all the pleasure it brings, Jazz for Peanuts is quite the misnomer; this album is definitely worth its weight in gold.

Rating: Masterpiece

About the author

zzeroparticle Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

8 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. maskerade says:

    Whoa, that’s some pedigree there! And I did a little bit of a giggle when I heard Kenny G’s signature lines there. Can’t say I’m a fan of his, but can appreciate his contributions! Great writeup and this album sounds like something every jazz aficiando should get.

    Can’t get over the fact of the producers approaching these legends and saying, “We want to do a Peanuts album. All jazz. All awesome. A regular Peanut Butter jam session. Wanna play?”

    • @maskerade
      I for one was quite surprised when, in my research, I found out that Kenny G got that Grammy Award nomination. Yeah, that was the piece I enjoyed the least, which says something about the overall high quality of the album.

      From the CD jacket, one common theme that’s been shared is how many of the musicians cited Vince Guaraldi’s original tunes as getting them into music and into jazz. Fascinating for sure and I’m sure they were more than happy to provide tribute to their original sources of inspiration.

  2. someone says:

    Jesus fucking Christ, I thought dumping anime was just an april fools joke. Guess I can stop coming here now.

    You could at least redesign the site to reflect the fact that it no longer has anything to do with anime, but I guess you’re too lazy or something.

    • Yuki Nagato says:

      Agreed, (just without the swearing), since Anime Instrumentality still shows up as an anime site in search, not a western music one.

      As for the actual post; I am not really into jazz music, but the soundtrack is great even without the love for the genre. It just may broaden my tastes :)

      • @Yuki Nagato
        It’s so easy to dismiss something on this album’s caliber just because it looks really really cartoony. But it’s good, especially when you consider who’s involved. There certainly are worse ways to get into jazz music, that’s for sure!

    • @someone
      That’s a shame then since we have some excellent (fabulous even!) tunes to share down the pipeline. Site redesign takes time and it was an idea we came to at the very last minute on March 31, so that’s why we haven’t yet implemented it.

      Also, maybe you just need to SMILE! Doesn’t this make you SMILE:

  3. chikorita157 says:

    My mind just got blown as the April fools is taking full swing… I wonder, are you going expand to autotuned pop music from Disney shows like High School Musical or Hanna Montana next since why not stop there. :p

    • @chikorita157
      Oh man, now that’s a great idea! We should just keep that in mind for next year or something. Nothing could drive us crazier than being forced to listen to auto-tuned Disney pop ;D

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