Peter White has always been best known in the smooth-jazz world for his Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar over various backgrounds.
However, Mr. White, who brings his "Peter White Christmas" tour Friday to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall, first developed that signature style for a pop release in the 1970s -- and that on a lark.
Mr. White, who grew up in Letchworth, England, became proficient on numerous instruments at the encouragement of his father. Like many musicians of his era, he fell under the influence of the Beatles, which steered to the guitar as his primary instrument.
Mr. White began focusing on acoustic guitar after his younger brother Danny accidentally set fire to the bedroom they shared, Mr. White's electric guitar a casualty.
In his late teens Mr. White went to London to audition for various bands and fell in with singer-songwriter Al Stewart, originally playing keyboards because "he already had a guitar player." However, for his 1976 "Year of the Cat" album, Mr. Stewart decided to utilize Mr. White's guitar skills in a way that Mr. White didn't expect.
For the song "On the Border," which contains a lyric "smuggling guns and arms across the Spanish border," Mr. White says that Mr. Stewart "put a nylon [-string] acoustic guitar in my hand and said, 'Play this' " -- which Mr. White says was an adjustment because he had previously played primarily steel-string guitar.
In concert, "I would come out play that one song on the guitar," Mr. White says. "That sound became identifiable, so I kind of went with it."
Since then, Mr. White has recorded with numerous artists, including trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonists Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Boney James and Grover Washington Jr., as well as recorded 13 albums under his own name, most recently this year's "Here We Go," the title track released as a single in the spring.
Mr. White moved to the Los Angeles area in the early 1980s with Mr. Stewart but regularly returned to England to work with his kid brother, who had "started getting proficient on piano," Mr. White says. "He formed a band called Matt Bianco with a lady named Basia [Trzetrzelewska, a Polish-born singer], and he became her musical director." Danny White still works with Basia.
Mr. White and Mr. Braun had done a Christmas tour with Mr. Koz since 1998; however, in 2003 Mr. Koz decided to change the lineup, so Mr. White decided to do his own with saxophonist Mindi Abair. The next year Mr. Braun asked to be involved.
"Since then we've toured every year, the three of us," Mr. White says. "We're going to play songs from our latest albums and do a lot of singing -- more singing than we do during the rest of the year," as all three headliners can sing, Mr. White says. "I kind of picked the band based on singing ability," keyboardist Ron Reinhardt, bassist Nate Phillips and drummer Steve Theard rounding out the ensemble.
Indeed, Mr. White hasn't performed in Pittsburgh since 1998, with the ongoing "Guitars & Saxes" tour, which that time was renamed "Guitars, Saxes & More" due to the presence of Mr. Braun, who plays neither instrument.
"It's a shame, and I'm glad that we're coming back -- very glad," Mr. White says. "This year we're playing cities we haven't hit in a while."
Rick Nowlin: email@example.com or 412-263-3871.