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Vince Guaraldi at the Piano Paperback – March 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"A phenomenal gift from the author to us: it is a loving tribute to the man and his music, one that seeks to place Guaraldi at the musical shrine he so deserves...labor of scholarly love offers supreme example of professional expertise and literary virtuosity. The value cannot be underestimated." --ARSC Journal

"Definitive biography." --All About


About the Author

Derrick Bang, the author of several books on Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts, has written film, television, Internet, and general entertainment commentary for local newspapers since 1974, and supplies regular columns and features to The Davis Enterprise. He lives in Davis, California.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (March 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786459026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786459025
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Derrick Bang, author of 2000's popular and critically praised "50 Years of Happiness: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz," in early 2004 released his second book about Schulz, this one focusing on the cartoonist's early work after returning home from his WWII service: "Charles M. Schulz: Li'l Beginnings."

It was followed, in 2005, by Derrick's editorial involvement with a third book highlighting yet another previously untapped glimpse into Schulz's past: "It's Only a Game," which assembled all the short-lived panel cartoons that the Peanuts creator produced in the late 1950s with collaborator and "ghost" Jim Sasseville. In 2009, Derrick and co-editor Don Fraser assembled "Security Blankets: How Peanuts Touched Our Lives," a collection of anecdotes by people whose lives had been transformed by Schulz's work.

Derrick grew up in the greater Los Angeles basin and then fled, in 1973, to attend UC Davis; he loved the area and decided to remain as a full-time resident after graduating in June 1977. To fill those hours when he wasn't busily writing for any newspaper or magazine foolish enough to publish him, he founded The Game Preserve, a retail Davis game-and-puzzle store, in September 1978. Derrick kept his shop open for just over 18 years, and finally closed the business in January 1997, when he became entertainment editor of The Davis Enterprise, a full-time position he held until October 2010.

Derrick has written film, television, Internet and general entertainment commentary for local newspapers since 1974, and still supplies regular columns and features to The Enterprise. More recent projects have included extensive liner notes for CD re-issues of classic albums by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, famed for the hit single "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and remembered these days as the composer who put some jazz swing into Charlie Brown's step, for a series of animated Peanuts television specials. Derrick also recently completed a book-length career study of Guaraldi, "Vince Guaraldi at the Piano," published in March 2012.

Derrick lives in Davis, California, with his wife, Gayna, and two preternaturally precocious pets.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Anderson on April 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
In one fell swoop, this exhaustive musical biography masterfully fills the information void on one of the 20th Century's most popular yet under-appreciated jazz pianists, Vince Guaraldi. Best known nowadays for his Peanuts television soundtracks, Guaraldi was an anchor and innovator in the West Coast jazz scene, as well as a Grammy-winning composer, years before his Charlie Brown fame. This definitive written account of his life and career will be a joyful revelation to Guaraldi fans, and belongs in every library that contains materials on musical history, American jazz, San Francisco, or 20th Century popular culture.

It's all in there, in new and greater detail than you've ever seen before, unfurled against the backdrop of the beatnik 1950s, swinging 1960s, and groovy 1970s: Touring with Woody Herman, the Cal Tjader years, the first Monterey Jazz Festival, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," the Grace Cathedral Mass, the Peanuts soundtracks, the Charlie Brown Suite, Vince's electric rock and fusion experimentation, his sudden death and posthumous acclaim, and so much more.

The success of this book reflects the singular talents of Derrick Bang, whose decades of experience as a California-based entertainment writer, Guaraldi aficionado, and implacable researcher shine through in every page. The text flows merrily along, even when it is chock-full of facts and particulars. Having done some archival research on Guaraldi myself, I am amazed at the breadth of materials that Mr. Bang has discovered, digested, and woven together into a single, cohesive narrative. This is especially the case for Guaraldi's early life and career, which are lacunae no more, thanks almost completely to this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tim Crawford on July 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I jumped at the chance to review Derrick Bang's biography, "Vince Guaraldi at the Piano", having been a fan of Guaraldi since I first heard his song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind". Listening to Guaraldi's music made me think that I would have liked him had I ever met him, after reading Bang's well researched biography I'm sure I would have.

Bang concentrates of Guaraldi's professional life but manages to include the aspects of his personal life that are relevant. For instance two of his uncles are professional musicians, Guaraldi grew up exposed to the realities of the job, the need to always be practicing, the work hours, and the uncertain paychecks. Bang follows Guaraldi's career from playing at school dances and parties for his classmates to summers moving back and forth from lesbian bars and strip clubs, to first occasionally working as a sideman with Cal Tjader to becoming a regular with Tjader's group until finally stepping out with his own group.

Guaraldi's third album was titled for and focused on Guaraldi's interpretations of Latin music from the 1959 movie "Black Orpheus". Since those cuts were not enough to fill an album several of Guaraldi's other compositions were used to fill out the album. Fantasy Records, the company Guaraldi was under contract with, issued a 45 single to promote the album. One of Guaraldi's other compositions was chosen for the B side of the record, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind". Over the next few years and that recording climbed the charts, first the 45, then the albums, Stereo and Monaural, made it into their respective "Best of the Week" charts and Guaraldi's life became very busy.

He became so busy that Bang had to devote separate chapters to events unfolding at the same time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By corry342 on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
Derrick Bang's Vince Guaraldi At The Piano is a wonderful biography of the great pianist. However, those readers who only have a general knowledge or interest in Guaraldi should be aware that the book provides a fascinating narrative of jazz in San Francisco from the 1950s to the 19770s. In many ways it is a story of decline, as jazz is replaced by rock as hip, popular music. Nonetheless, one does not have to be completely embedded in Guaraldi's music to appreciate the scope of the book.

Guaraldi played a part in so much of West Coast jazz, playing with Woody Herman and Cal Tjader, working all the clubs, playing the original Monterey Jazz Festivals, bringing jazz to the masses with "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" (and later, to Mass, but you have to read the book) and then becoming truly mass market with "Peanuts." In between, he plays with all sorts of people, from Anita O'Day to Jerry Garcia. The story of Vince Guaraldi at the piano is also the story of post-war jazz in San Francisco, and provides a rich cultural history of the era.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Francis C. Cary on August 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
Most of us know Vince Guaraldi as the guy who wrote and performed the piano scores to the Peanuts television specials. The Linus and Lucy theme is forever stored in the memories of countless listeners, whether they know it by name or not. Derrick Bang's biography, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, offers an in-depth description of Guaraldi's multifaceted musical career - a history most are unaware of. Unfortunately, Bang's outline is a bit overdone, becoming tedious for the reader who was looking forward to a more complete life history. However, to the jazz enthusiast or musician, it is a great chronicle of Guaraldi's musical career.

Bang does cover some of Guaraldi's history and influences. In particular, he takes an interesting look inside the music business at that time, including the development and nature of contracts between record companies and performers. Guaraldi was an active musician and writer during a period when the recording companies received the lion's share of the artists' proceeds. Very little went to the artist. For example, Guaraldi received a mere 5% share of all his earnings - an inequitable sum, comparatively.

Overall, this is a well written study of Mr. Guaraldi's musical career. However, it is not for one who is looking for a comprehensive biography. It is more like an expanded provenance. It is an excellent chronicle of a musician who aspired to reach us, not by writing hits, but rather standards - music that feels comfortable and familiar, "the first time you hear it." Fans of David Benoit, George Winston and Bola Sete will find much of interest in this book, as well.

A post note on behalf of the author and for others reference: the classical guitarist Andre Segovia is erroneously referred to as "Andrew"; and, the State University of New York at Potsdam is said to be in Syracuse where, in fact, it is located considerably more to the North in Potsdam.
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