Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: A Peter White Christmas with Rick Braun and Mindi Abair

Peter White, Mindi Abair and Rick Braun (Courtesy Photo)
Peter White, Mindi Abair and Rick Braun (Courtesy Photo)

Smooth jazz acoustic guitarist Peter White told the News-Press that he hadn’t played Christmas music for decades before the winter of 1995. That’s when he was invited to by saxophonist Dave Koz’s Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour. And it was that tour, he said, that got him back into the Christmas music spirit. “I started to realize the people really wanted to hear the music and what it does, is remind them of their childhood,” White said.

“That’s why people are so enamored with Christmas music…most of the songs have been around a long time because people still love to hear them.”

White’s father taught him how to play Christmas songs on his first instrument, a recorder, when he was a child. He’s said that his love for Christmas music has endured throughout the years, but had to be reminded of that when he went on tour with Koz.

“I was kind of surprised that I took to it so easily having not so long and also surprised at how well received the songs were by the people, because you think ‘Oh, this is going to be corny and everyone does this, so I don’t want to copy everyone else’ but I kind of got over that,” White said. He toured as part of Koz’s Christmas band for five years, eventually writing his own arrangements of Christmas standards.

Then, in 2003, he started his own Christmas tour with saxophonist and vocalist Mindi Abair. Trumpeter Rick Braun joined White and Abair after the first tour and now the trio tours every year with a band, playing A Peter White Christmas around the country.

The trio and their backing band will play A Peter White Christmas next Monday, Dec. 8, at The Birchmere. They started touring with the show the day before Thanksgiving at Dosey Doe in Houston, a music venue converted from a barn.

“It was nice to start in a small, intimate place,” White said. “By the time we get to the Birchmere we will have done almost ten cities.” It’s important for the band to get warmed up before getting to the Birchmere, because Sirius/XM Radio usually records their performance at the Alexandria venue and broadcasts it throughout the Christmas season.

White said that the show changes from year to year and they have been increasing the amount of songs they play every year for last few years. In order to fit in as many songs as they can during their performances, they’ll be playing medleys of Christmas songs and medleys of older and newer songs of theirs.

White, Abair and Braun all released new solo projects this year, so there is a lot of ground to cover in terms of performing new material. White released Smile in October, Abair released Wild Heart in May and Braun released Can You Feel It? in July.

Perhaps White, Abair and Braun all released albums in the same year due to some psychic connection they’ve developed throughout the eleven years they’ve been touring with the Christmas show and countless other times they’ve played together. White said that Abair and Braun are two of his best friends at this point.

And they’ve played The Birchmere every year since starting the Christmas tour, which has become White’s musical version of coming home for the holidays.

“It’s our home away from home. We love playing the Birchmere,” White said. “It’s like an intimate club, but it’s much larger than intimate club while still maintaining that nightclub intimacy, which is why we love playing there every year. It would not be the same if we did not get to play the Birchmere on our tour.”

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