Another year, another performance of Vince Guaraldi’s classic music for the “Charlie Brown” Christmas special from Atlanta-area artist (and dear friend) Jeffrey BÃ¼tzer and pianist T.T. Mahoney.
This year, BÃ¼tzer decided put on a couple of performances of the newish Atlanta holiday tradition (it’s only in its third year, but it feels like it’s been around longer) at The Earl: one show Friday night, and one the next night in the early evening. I went to Saturday night show, and BÃ¼tzer and Mahoney had it going on with a wonderful lineup.
First up was a set of BÃ¼tzer’s original music (which can be found at Amazon and iTunes) with his new band The Bicycle Eaters. I’ve seen Jeffrey (whose music is instrumental and typically inspired by the likes of Yann Tiersen and Ennio Morricone, among others) in concert many times over the years with his various bands and performer combinations, and he’s managed to maintain a consistency and level of performance that is a tribute to his own talents and his ability to seek out performers that are like minded and just as talented. It was a short set (around 15 minutes) to start the evening out on, and just as offbeat and enjoyable as any I’ve seen of his in the past (having Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music in the World” playing in the background– BÃ¼tzer and the Canadian filmmaker are very good online friends in fact –only adds to the odd musical atmosphere his unique instrumentations accomplish). It was a good way to start off the evening.
Next up with recording artist (and fellow instrumentalists) Sorry No Ferrari playing The Ventures Christmas album. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this band (I’d never heard them before) but one listen and you immediately understand why BÃ¼tzer chose them– their surf music electricity is a perfect compliment to BÃ¼tzer’s idiosyncratic musical aesthetic. Admittedly, I didn’t quite enjoy their set as much as I did the ones before and after (having a single “go-go” dancer on-stage didn’t really add much to the proceedings; one on each side might have had a stronger effect) but I do look forward to possibly hearing more from them in the future.
To close, we finally came to the main event, with a small and twig-thin Christmas tree (with a single red ornament) up front, a projection of Peanuts holiday memories (and the iconic special itself) in back, and a humble trio of musicians (BÃ¼tzer, Mahony, and bassist Robby Handley (making his debut with the event this year)) ready to bring the beautiful and simple melodies of Guaraldi’s music to life. Admittedly, it seems like an odd thing to go see a performance of music you can catch on TV in the form of the holiday staple show each year (especially with the soundless projection of the show in the background), but what it boils down to for me is an opportunity for one artist (BÃ¼tzer, as aided by Mahony, Handley, and this year a quartet of ladies providing vocals) paying tribute to another (not just Guaraldi but also, I would argue, Charles M. Schultz and the special’s director Bill Melendez) who has meant so much to him over the years. I can relate; it’s that same impulse that led me to do an album inspired by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” another seemingly “odd” thing to do. To be fair, I didn’t think the performance was quite as solid at this show as it was last year, but it was still a wonderful way to spend an evening, and dammit if it doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit.
Thank you, Jeffrey, T.T. and everyone else for the musical memories this year. I can’t wait for next year’s show!
Thanks for listening,