By Kelly Strodl
Today we talk with Andrew Thomas, director of THE ANATOMY OF VINCE GUARALDI. The film follows two friends, who in 1963, get together to make a film about jazz. Ralph J. Gleason (noted jazz writer and co-founder of Rolling Stone) and Vince Guaraldi (then leading the house band at the famed hungry i in San Francisco) met in a recording studio to document how a combo lays down tracks. The result was Guaraldi’s landmark jazz / pop crossover hit, “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”… but the film of that event was only shown once, then was filed away in Gleason’s attic. Recently two new friends got together to take this rare footage and expand it to follow the musical and social impact of Vince Guaraldi as he went onto create the masterful scores for the Peanuts cartoons, the historic Jazz Mass at Grace Cathedral, and lend his music and personality to participate in some of the most important social movements of his time. It’s called “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi”.The new friends are Toby Gleason (Ralph’s son) and Andrew Thomas, an award-winning documentarian. Together they have unearthed previously unknown recordings and footage, and gathered an eclectic collection of personalities to perform and share their intimate memories of Guaraldi’s impact -- including Dave Brubeck, Dick Gregory, George Winston, Malcolm Boyd, Paul Krassner, Irwin Corey, John Handy, and more. Scored from Guaraldi’s private recordings that have never been heard before now, and featuring new performances by George Winston, John Hendricks, and David Benoit, “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” is a musical, visual and cultural feast.
Q: How did you hear about the Newport Beach Film Festival?
When I first moved to Southern California, Newport Beach was my hangout for a summer. The long days on the sand... the nights spent at Charlie's Chili... and so there's an emotional resonance that encouraged me to try to be accepted at the festival -- coming full circle from searching for my place in filmmaking, then coming "home" to say I've arrived.
Q: Tell a little about the story of your film and the production of it.
Vince Guaraldi is best known for writing the music for the Charlie Brown
TV specials, and for his huge jazz–pop crossover hit, "Cast Your Fate To The Wind". Vince is America's best known, least recognized composer! In 1963, jazz writer Ralph J. Gleason (co-founder of Rolling Stone Magazine and the Monterey Jazz Festival) decided to film his good friend Vince Guaraldi as Vince was recording a new album... and Ralph was there the day that "Cast Your Fate" was performed. This rare film was only seen once in 1963, and as generally considered "lost" for 48 years.
Recently we found the only print in existence hidden in the attic of the Gleason home in Berkeley... and we've lovingly restored it as the historic document it is. But that short film stops the story prior to Vince's years at the hungry I nightclub with the Beatniks in North Beach, and doesn't include the Peanuts compositions, the infamous Jazz Mass at Grace Cathedral, the concerts for civil rights, free speech and more.
Our new film, "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi" expands on all these areas with the help of friends and collaborators -- including Dave Brubeck, George Winston, Dick Gregory, Jon Hendricks, John Handy, Irwin Corey and many more.
Q: Tell a little about yourself and your story in filmmaking.
Most of my filmmaking has been for studios and broadcasters -- from Disney and Discovery, to A&E, Fox, ABC, and others. But to be true to Vince's story, I had to produce the film outside the normal channels, as some of the content is too harsh for the delicate sensibilities of "corporate media". This proved to be an enormous challenge. Several times through the production we had to stop and accept side work doing "conventional" films in order to fund the ongoing Guaraldi project. (An industrial doc on the manufacturing of nail polish, anyone?)
But we succeeded thanks to the kind help of Vince's family and friends. We may have spent a number of nights sleeping in the back of rental cars, and "borrowing" raw stock from other productions, but the integrity of the story shows. Even the soundtrack for the film is scored from Vince's own practice tapes, found in a closet in his family's home. It represents the first new Guaraldi performances to be heard in 46 years. Completely new. Completely original.
Q: Your take on the performances of the lead actors, (set backs, triumphs, impressions, good surprises, etc.)
Millions of people have heard Dave Brubeck play "Take Five". We feature him singing it. Also, "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi" allowed some of Vince's old friends to collaborate with him one more time.
Taking an unpublished recording of Vince performing "Cast Your Fate", we arranged for jazz legend Jon Hendricks to write new lyrics and layer a new "vocaleze" performance on top, with the help of his daughter and the facility of Tony Bennett's studio.
Q: What do you do when not making a smash indie film?
I scour between the cushions of the couch to find the budget for the next project!
THE ANATOMY OF VINCE GUARALDI screens Thursday, May 5 at 6:30PM at the Triangle Square Theater 2.
To purchase tickets follow the below link:
Click below to watch the film’s trailer: