It’s not Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, but it’s just like it. A Charlie Brown Christmas has established itself for almost six decades as one of the essential Christmas records. Two local pianists offer their vision this week in Montreal.

Taurey Butler, an American pianist who has lived in Montreal for about 15 years, doesn’t remember how Charlie Brown’s Christmas music came into his life. He doesn’t remember the Vince Guaraldi-composed record playing at his home in New Jersey, but has the feeling those tunes were present just about everywhere around him.

“Charlie Brown’s music had an influence on me, even if I didn’t realize it until much later,” he adds, seated in the Bourgie Room of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where he continues – for the ninth year – the A Charlie Brown Christmas disc program.

Dan Thouin, for his part, only has a vague memory of the special broadcast devoted in 1965 to the most depressed boy in American comics. It was not even him who had the idea of ​​presenting the music in concert, but Nicolas Houle, director of programming at the Palais Montcalm, in Quebec. “I’m not a big fan of Christmas music,” he admits.

It was after receiving the invitation from the Palais Montcalm that the pianist focused on this jazz album with well-known themes. “It really captures the spirit of the times. »

“What I like about this concert is that it highlights Vince Guaraldi’s great qualities as a composer,” says Taurey Butler. I don’t think he’s known for anything other than Charlie Brown music. He is a wonderful composer, capable of making beautiful music while remaining playful and making people happy. »

A Charlie Brown Christmas is indeed a record that is both very jazzy and very accessible. Traditional tunes like O Tannenbaum, My Little Drum and What Child Is This are given a jazz treatment, while some of the tunes composed by Vince Guaraldi have become holiday staples: Christmas Time Is Here (covered by everyone, from Tony Bennett to Mariah Carey) and the unforgettable Linus and Lucy.

“I think the theme from Linus and Lucy is one of the most famous in the piano repertoire. People everywhere recognize it and demand it,” assures Taurey Butler. Dan Thouin also feels people’s attachment to this tune. “There’s not a night I play it and no audience member does the snowflake dance,” he says, referring to a scene from the TV show.

The approach of the two pianists, for the rest, is radically different. Taurey Butler sticks in her concert to the pieces included on the disc and feels very free to put these tunes to her own hands. “It’s even better when the tunes are familiar to people, because one of the problems with jazz is that people think it’s just a bunch of notes,” he observes.

Having melodic reference points allows, in his opinion, people to better understand the approach of musicians.

Dan Thouin is not making any big changes. He underlines certain passages, changes the moments in the pieces where there is improvisation. “It’s so imprinted in people’s minds and they expect to hear that,” he illustrates. Then, he focuses on economy of means.

“My game is based on listening. I create tension by not playing, he explains. I am like a guide, even when I am a leader. I like to listen and watch what is happening, to spice up the discussions. Ahmad Jamal, Miles Davis and Paul Bley were doing that. »

Amusing detail, double bassist Morgan Moore, who accompanies Taurey Butler during concerts at Bourgie Hall, also accompanies Dan Thouin at Dièse Onze. We don’t really know how it will manage to be in two places at approximately the same time on the evening of December 21…

Dan Thouin’s trio is completed by Louis-Vincent Hamel on drums, while Wali Muhammad will complete Taurey Butler’s trio. The American pianist also invited singer Laura Anglade.