Don't call acoustic guitarist Peter White a jazz musician; call him a complete musician.
These days he's best known for writing and recording chart-topping smooth jazz hits, but in the 20 years before that his guitar solos were dressing up the albums of singers Al Stewart and Basia.
"The music I'm playing now hasn't changed from the music I played then. It's all Peter White music," said the native of Luton, England, on his cellphone from a New Jersey freeway (he wasn't driving).
"The beat is always funk, but if you were to replace the voice with a guitar, it would be called jazz," White continued. "It's all about the voice. If there is a singer, people call it R&B. If it's my guitar, they call it contemporary jazz.
"I don't try to categorize my music, though. I leave that to you journalists."
This New Year's Eve at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, White will definitely be in a smooth jazz setting, joining co-headliners Rick Braun, trumpet, and Richard Elliot, sax. Providing the rhythm section are Nate Philips, bass, Ross Bolton, guitar, Gregg Karukas, keyboards and Third Richardson, drums.
As always, Braun is the musical host for this event, produced annually at Starr Pass by the Tucson Jazz Society. Over the past seven years he has made these New Year's fests a showcase for the smooth jazz artists.
Braun will get some spotlight attention himself this year with his new CD, "Swingin' In The Snow," packed with yuletide favorites. The tracks continue the trumpet player's interest in doing more vocal albums, following "Rick Braun Sings With Strings" last year's collection of pop standards.
Braun has been spending much of this December on the Peter White Christmas Tour. White, for his part, is joining Elliot's special Three Tenors concert up state in the Wigwam Ballroom in Litchfield Park on Dec. 29 with Euge Groove and Gerald Albright.
All this togetherness with White, Elliot and Braun should set up New Year's Eve for some especially tight playing.
"The three of us have played hundreds of shows together," said White. "There is an easy camaraderie among us. We know each other's music very well.
"It's also good that we are all playing different instruments. We can truly augment each other, instead of competing with each other."
Taking its place as the opening act is the Tucson Jazz Institute's perennial award-winning Ellington Big Band directed by Doug Tidaback. Comprised mostly of students from Tucson, Nogales and Chandler, the band this year has won three national jazz competitions, released a new CD and made its debut at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California.
The Starr Pass festivities include a five-course meal, a dessert course, a midnight balloon drop and champagne toast. Additionally, all the proceeds from the silent auction will benefit the Tucson Alliance for Autism, the national Autism Society and the jazz society's own youth education program.
IF YOU GO
• What: Seventh Annual New Year's Eve Gala, featuring Rick Braun, trumpet, Peter White, guitar, and Richard Elliot, sax.
• Presented by: Tucson Jazz Society.
• When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., dinner and music begin at 8 p.m., the featured musicians perform at 10:30 p.m., final dessert course at 11:15 p.m.
• Where: JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd.
• Tickets: $199-$269 per person; special Starr Pass room rates for ticket holders.
• Details, reservations: tucsonjazz.org or 903-1265.