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Even if he had only written and recorded the lovely 1963 single "Cast Your Fate To The Wind," San Francisco-based pianist Vince Guaraldi would today be remembered as one of the key figures in the musical subgenre known as West Coast cool jazz, alongside contemporaries like Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. But in 1964, television producer Lee Mendelson heard Guaraldi's hit single on the radio and invited the pianist to provide the score for a documentary he was producing about another Bay Area resident, "Peanuts" artist Charles Schulz. Guaraldi and his low-key piano trio score hit it off with Mendelson and Schulz, and when the pair began work on their first animated television special, 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas," they invited Guaraldi to score it. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was innovative in several different ways, as the first television cartoon to use real children to provide the characters' voices, and inserting a defiantly anti-commercialism message--not to mention Linus's famous recitation of a Bible passage--into a primetime TV show. But it was Guaraldi's lovely, lyrical score, including the immediate standards "Christmastime Is Here" and "Linus and Lucy" (the rollicking tune heard during the legendary dance sequence), that was the most obvious departure. Generations of children's first exposure to jazz came through this score. Guaraldi's music became one of the key elements of the dozens of "Peanuts" specials that followed, even after the pianist died of a heart attack at age 47 in 1976.
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