Somewhat lost in the crowded list of albums recorded in Marin County, California over the decades, is the 1963 Fantasy Records release of Vince Guaraldi — In Person, a live album recorded at the Trident lounge located at 558 Brideway in Sausalito. The venue (formally known as the Yacht Dock) was purchased by Bay Area folk group Kingston Trio in 1960 and hosted live jazz music nearly every night of the week for fifteen years. The Trident is the location of numerous live jazz recordings during the 1960s, including albums by Bill Evans, Jon Hendricks, Denny Zeitlin, The Don Scaletta Piano Trio, and Vince Guaraldi in December of 1962.
“What Vince has got in his playing is feeling. This is a quality that money can’t buy, practice cannot make perfect and technique tends to defeat rather than enhance.”
– Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle Jazz Critic, 1963
Following a two-week run (ending in November 1962) billing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio at the famed Blackhawk jazz club in San Francisco, Vince Guaraldi and his group began a yearend run of performances across the Golden Gate Bridge at The Trident club in Sausalito. Six months earlier, Guaraldi’s breakthrough album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and its’ somewhat surprising hit, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” had been released on San Francisco-based Fantasy Records. By December 1st, “Cast Your Fate…” had entered Billboard magazine charts at #127 and was climbing. Looking to take full advantage of Guaraldi’s budding commercial popularity, Fantasy Records set up recording equipment at the waterfront club on December 4th, 1962, to capture Guaraldi in his element.
Vince Guaraldi considered the Trident in Sausalito home turf, having played there since it was known as the Yacht Dock Jazz Club. After the Kingston Trio purchased the venue, more high-profile patrons and artists began calling the Trident home. Guaraldi would ultimately perform at the club for over a dozen years. Soon after the location was rebranded from the Yacht Dock to Trident in 1961, Guaraldi said, “This is one place a jazz musician won’t have to work pianissimo to keep from breaking the customers’ glasses. The only place we couldn’t get complete acoustical control is on the speakers outside, on the yacht deck. On foggy nights we’ll have to compete with the Alcatraz fog horn. I feel bad about it. The seagulls really dig us.”
On Tuesday, December 4th, 1962, the material for what would become Vince Guaraldi – In Person was taped live at the Trident. Guaraldi’s quintet featured himself on the piano, Colin Bailey on drums, Fred Marshall playing bass, Eddie Duran on guitar, and Guaraldi’s former Cal Tjader bandmate, Bayardo “Benny” Velarde, on scratcher. The group recorded several songs that night and ultimately settled on nine for the album, with only one Guaraldi original included; Side Two, track 3: “Freeway.” The album captures a unique time and place while hinting at things to come (think of the yet-to-have-been-written “Skating” from Charlie Brown Christmas when listening to “Jitterbug Waltz”). On some tracks, such as Side 1, Track 3: “Miserlou,” you can hear the Trident patrons talking and milling about the club that evening. Longtime San Francisco Music Journalist Ralph Gleason commented in the album’s liner notes: “Vince looks forward to… trying to be a good musician and making the best album he can, every time. That’s what you hear in Vince Guaraldi “in person.” He’s in there, trying every minute.”
The minutes started to move much faster for Guaraldi after that December 1962 evening at the Trident. In Person was released on June 10th, 1963, a month after Guaraldi won his first Grammy Award for “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” -which had held its’ own on the Billboard charts all spring long. “Zelao” and “Jitterbug Waltz” were released as singles during the summer, and within 24 months, millions of children would be introduced to jazz music for the first time, thanks to his association with the Charlie Brown and Peanuts Gang franchise.
Guaraldi’s future creative output is stylistically revealed in the pianists’ interpretations of the compositions captured on In Person. And while live albums recorded at the Trident, Sausalito have not captured as much acclaim or notoriety as albums recorded at the club’s San Francisco counterparts El Matador, hungry i, or Blackhawk, In Person is the only one to capture a slice of West Coast Jazz History before it was Joe Cool.
Vince Guaraldi — In Person
1963, Fantasy Records
Recorded Live at The Trident, Sausalito, California
December 4th, 1962
Vince Guaraldi – piano
Fred Marshall – bass
Benny Velarde – scratcher
Eddie Duran – guitar
Colin Bailey – drums
Cover Photo – Chas Weckler (credited Jim Weckler)
“Anatomy of a Hit; 1; The Serendipity Groove.” 1964. NET. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting
Gleason, Ralph. Vince Guaraldi In Person, Liner Notes, Fantasy Records LP 8352, 1963
Bang, Derrick. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. North Carolina, London. 2012. https://impressionsofvince.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-trident-then-and-now.html