AMN Reviews: The Jerry Granelli Trio – Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison (2020; RareNoise Records)

Hear me out with this one. It is not our usual fare.

Drummer Jerry Granelli will turn 80 soon, and over the course of his long career he played as a studio musician with numerous groups. The most notable piece that he contributed to is the Peanuts theme song on Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even my kids know that tune. Mose Allison, who if anything was more influential on musicians than Guaraldi, is less well-known to the public. Both partook in a form of listenable blues-oriented jazz that combined deep musicianship with tunefulness.

On this tribute album, Granelli is joined by pianist Jamie Saft and bassist Bradley Christopher Jones. They play through ten tracks, half roughly written by each of Guaraldi and Allison. Not being terribly familiar with the source material, I cannot say how close (or not close) these covers are to the originals. But I can evaluate them on their face – and there is much to like.

Granelli, Saft, and Jones play with a relaxed virtuosity. Indeed, the catchiness of the music can hide the level of mastery with which it is performed. Saft, in particular, adds a tremendous amount of color with his lyricism. Jones is active in the background and comes forward for subtly energetic solos from time to time. Granelli offers accents and motifs atop what otherwise could have been straight playing. In other hands, these tunes could have been vanilla – but Granelli, Saft, and Jones color slightly outside the lines to liven the mix. High points include the driving melodies of Cast Your Fate to the Wind from Guaraldi, and uptempo angularity of Your Mind is on Vacation from Allison.

Granelli and company take a few left turns to create a very enjoyable 50 minutes of music. Don’t hesitate.

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