Charlie Brown Christmas famous jazz legend Jerry Granelli dies at 80

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Jerry Granelli, jazz legend and gifted music teacher best known for his sweet drumming on the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas, is dead. He was 80 years old.

A message posted Tuesday on Jerry Granelli’s Facebook page said he was hospitalized in Halifax in December with internal bleeding and spent two months in intensive care. Although he recovered sufficiently to eventually return home, the ordeal exacerbated other long-term health problems, the post said.

Granelli died Tuesday morning at his home in Halifax.

Colin MacKenzie, manager of Granelli, collaborator and director of a film about him, said that Granelli’s personality draws people to him and keeps them there.

“We would go to a town and he would walk into a store or a restaurant, never been there before, and he would leave and everyone loved him, like, he would befriend everyone.

“He had that magnetism and charisma that you just wanted to, you know, be a part of.”

Longtime friend and CBC music producer Jeff Reilly, who recorded three albums with Granelli, called the jazz giant a “rich person.”

Granelli’s musical career spanned over 60 years and was recognized by the Grammy Awards, Junos, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Stefanie Marcus)

“He could be extremely kind and warm and generous, but other times he could be very demanding and, let’s say, straight to the point,” Reilly told CBC. Halifax Morning Information. “But I think it was all in the spirit of trying to get the best out of other people.”

Granelli’s career as a drummer spanned over 60 years and resulted in over 30 albums.

Granelli “played pretty much everyone” as a session musician, Reilly said, and performed with the Grateful Dead, Lou Rawls, Mose Allison, Sly Stone and, of course, Vince Guaraldi.

He lived in San Francisco, Colorado and Seattle and eventually moved to Halifax in the late 1980s.

His compositions have won the East Coast Music Awards, Junos, Grammy Awards, National Library of Congress Sound Archives, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him for his role in psychedelic band Light Sound Dimension. , or LSD.

Granelli was a regular on the drums at a young age and won numerous music competitions. (Submitted by Jerry Granelli)

As a drummer, Granelli had incredible range and a unique sound, Reilly said.

“He could get drum sounds that no one else could – and extremely subtle up to, you know, huge, loud, powerful blasts of energy.”

He was best known for his performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Vince Guaraldi Trio, recorded in one day over three hours. The TV special was released in 1965 and aired to generations of children and fans every year.

Granelli starred in A Charlie Brown Christmas as part of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. (Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

For many years, Granelli refused to perform this music because he did not want to be defined by it, but then he made peace with the legacy.

Reilly said he once asked Granelli if it bothered him that in the midst of his vast and varied musical career, he was best known for this album.

“He said, ‘No, I don’t mind at all.’ And he said, ‘I’m grateful.’ “

In recent years, Granelli has started shooting a live version called Tales from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“It was a way for him to give back,” said Reilly. “And people loved him for it and he loved doing it. He was like, you know, Santa Claus.”

Granelli in his studio in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

Granelli was also a sought-after teacher who taught in Berlin, Southeast Asia, Italy, and the United States and Canada.

Keith Mullins, a singer-songwriter from Cape Breton who studied with Granelli, said his teacher was a bright, beautiful and hard-working person, but his teaching style could be “militant” at times. Mullins remembers a time when he played drums with a funk band and Granelli wanted him to play in a special way.

“He approached my face and yelled at me at the top of his lungs, ‘Play two and four!'”

His gift as a teacher was to help students “become absolutely real” in their performance, said Reilly.

“He was successful in getting people to the heart of the matter. I think he taught people to listen.”

Granelli was a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, which Reilly said informed his musical practice.

Granelli practiced Tibetan Buddhism, which helped inform his musical practice. (Scott Irvine circa 2019)

“It was a contemplative meditation from the Buddhist tradition, the idea of ​​being in the present moment and learning to let go of your own desire to do it in your image and to learn to listen to what was really going on and to respond to the music that’s right here. “

On Sunday, just two days before his death, Granelli participated in a creative music workshop called Art in Everyday Life, hosted by the TD Halifax Jazz Festival.

A Facebook post on Tuesday attributed to his son, J. Anthony Granelli, said Granelli will be missed by his three children and five grandchildren.


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