Jeffrey Bützer goes Peanuts for 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

It takes courage to put on a show that pays homage to Vincent Guaraldi's much beloved score to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and do it justice. Since 1965, the San Francisco jazz pianist's accompaniment to Charles Schulz's cartoon special has become a seasonal classic.

The songs are anything but easy to play. But when Jeffrey Bützer explains that he has always wanted to put on a Christmas show, nothing sounds more appropriate for him to tackle – especially after he offers, without batting an eyelash, "It's pretty much the best Christmas album ever."

For the show on Dec. 20, the Marietta piano man who fronts the Midwives literally takes a backseat by playing drums in a trio rounded out by musical cohorts T.T. Mahony (piano) and Adrian Ash (bass), along with some vocal accompaniment by Anna McBath.

"It's a challenge for me because I don't play jazz," Bützer admits. "The structures are weird and I have to memorize everything even though I have the easiest part; it's all brushes."

The idea is to put on a spectacular Christmas party. He makes mention of boxes of decorations that will adorn the typically dark music venue, and there's talk of other holiday accoutrements. But the music is his foremost concern.

Last year Bützer spearheaded a different kind of theme night called Beautiful Losers, for which he, along with a few other local songwriters, offered their personal takes on songs by Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. But his approach to Guaraldi's Christmas classic is more delicate. "We're keeping it pretty traditional," he adds. "We didn't want to take a lot of liberties with the music the way we did with Beautiful Losers. The music is so pretty they way it is. ... Beyond that, this is Charlie Brown. To mess around with it would be sacrilegious!"

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