I accept that there are quite a few jazz albums as great as A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. And I admit even that there might be a small handful of jazz CDs, ones that I could even name, that are, end to end, better than A Charlie Brown Christmas, I mean, if we're going to get all ranky about things here. But I do contend there is no jazz more dazzlingly pleasurable than this 45 minutes or so of music, nothing that so much makes a person want to do a tiny, silly Peanuts dance of pleasure when hearing it. You do your little dance move, and back again, and start over in a four second loop. You are an animated Peanuts character of pure joy.
I have been playing this enchanting music pretty regularly over the last few days, whenever I am on the coveted phones work assignment at my job, and, vastly more than any music I have ever played there, people react with great enthusiasm to it. They don't just experience the joy of recognition ("Are you playing the Peanut's Christmas? Excellent!"), but they stop and listen for a bit, they do the dance, they reminisce.
At one point I was so delighted by this music, and so amazed by the happiness it seemed to be bringing to everyone, that I started to wonder if it was an odd, localized phenomenon, coincidence, or something truly universal. So I looked up the CD on Amazon. It had almost 700 reviews. The average rating was 4.8 stars. But ah, what are these one star reviews ruining its perfect rating? Every single one of them, and also every one of the two star ones, had to do with versions of the CD and its sound quality. No one had a single hard word for the music itself. "Oh my goodness," I thought, "everyone in the world actually loves this music." I was frankly amazed. I felt a sudden need to share my amazement. Unfortunately, absolutely no one was around me, so I ventured off to find someone to tell.
The first person I found, out at the front desk, was perhaps the very most positive person of all my co workers, a talker (like me!), an extremely nice person, an enthusiastic and idiosyncratic lover of all kinds of culture, and the perfect sort of person to share this happy news with.
"Oh my god!" I cried "I have just discovered that everyone in the whole world loves Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas!"
It turns out that it is kind of hard to describe the facial expression I am wanting to explain to you here. It should have a name, because you would totally know this expression. It's not a frown exactly. It's when you pull down the corners of your mouth by tightening your neck muscles, all in a way that then sort of makes these ligament kind of things stick out in your neck. I know that makes it sound horrible, but it's a common enough, normal expression. It's an "uh oh" expression. This is the expression my co worker made.
"I have just discovered that not everyone in the whole world loves Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas?" I asked.
My co worker explained.
Once upon a time she worked in a big Downtown Hotel. They had a woman who played piano in the lobby, I'm not sure if this was all the time, or just Christmas time. The woman grinned maniacally the whole time she played. This woman played a lot of Peanut's Christmas music as she was grinning maniacally, but never so much as when my co worker was around. She would play A Charlie Brown Christmas, grinning maniacally, all as a sort of response to the presence of my co worker. This began to sort of unnerve my co worker, giving her unpleasant associations with said music, and causing her to become distinctly unenamored of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I understand. Music is geology. As you become familiar with a piece of music it's like a layer of sediment is laying down in you. When you encounter that music later the weight of time will have compressed it into a solidified layer. Embedded inextricably into that layer will be all kinds of stray feelings and events and sensations that became caught, by chance, location, and temporality, in that music. Hearing that music again, later, will tend to be paleontological, or archeological. You may find nothing but the music, yet too you may find a dream of lit up shop windows on a dark cold night in a city, the pleasures of Peanuts characters come to life. You may find a delirious but delicious fantasy of anticipation, peace, wishes granted, freedom. You may find presents, longing, the dream of a past that never happened. And so too you may find the giant skeleton of a maniacal piano player, grinning up at you as you chip and dust the sediment out of its enormous eye socket. The world is so large in every direction. We must ever remain prepared to hand over our absolutes for everything, everything, even the delightfulness of A Charlie Brown Christmas.