George Winston - Solo Pianist


With a tour schedule that includes more than 110 shows a year - solo piano concerts, solo guitar concerts, solo harmonica concerts, and solo piano dances, Winston is driven by a deep rooted realization that his craft is still evolving, and by his desire to bring music to life through live performances, musical interpretation of other composers’ works, and the recording and production of albums of many of those who have influenced and inspired him. Constantly traveling, he draws inspiration from the places and people he encounters. 

George Winston was born in 1949 and grew up mainly in Montana, and he also spent his later formative years in Mississippi and Florida. His favorite music was instrumental rock and R&B - artists like Floyd Cramer, The Ventures, Booker T & The MG’s, the late jazz organist Jimmy Smith, and many more. "I was always an avid listener, especially to instrumental music and especially organists,” Winston recalls. "In 1967, when I heard The Doors, I started playing organ. I studied chord structures, music theory, and recordings of organists, especially the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith. In 1971 when I heard the 1920s and 1930s recordings of the great stride pianist Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller, I switched to solo piano.”

"I play three styles: New Orleans R&B piano, and the majority of songs I play are in this style; stride piano, which was the main way of playing that I worked on after hearing Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson; and third, folk piano, the style that I came up with in 1971 which is influenced and inspired by instrumental R&B and rock, North American folk music, and even more by the sounds of the piano itself. Many of the songs on my albums are in this melodic folk style, and it has a rural sensibility, the opposite of the urban sensibility of the R&B piano and the stride piano. My approach is North American and I basically treat the piano as an Afro-American tuned drum, as well as using the natural overtones that the piano has.”

In 1972 Winston recorded his first solo piano album Ballads and Blues 1972 for the late guitarist John Fahey’s Takoma Records. "I would not be doing anything that I am doing now - solo piano albums, solo instrumental concerts, and recording the great solo Hawaiian Slack Key guitarists on my own label - without John’s influence and inspiration,” Winston states. "He is certainly the only person in the world who would have recorded a solo piano album of me in 1972.” Since 1980 George has released ten more solo piano albums: Autumn (1980), Winter Into Spring (1982), December (1982), Summer (1991), Forest (1994), Linus & Lucy-The Music Of Vince Guaraldi (1996), Plains (1999), Night Divides The Day–The Music Of The Doors (2002), Montana-A Love Story (2004), and Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions-A Hurricane Relief Benefit (2006).

In 1984 George also recorded the solo piano soundtrack for the children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit with narration by Meryl Streep. In 1988 he recorded the solo piano soundtrack for the Peanuts® animation This is America Charlie Brown: The Birth of the Constitution, playing mainly the late Vince Guaraldi’s pieces. In 1995 he worked with George Levenson of Informed Democracy on three projects: a solo guitar soundtrack for Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes with narration by Liv Ullmann; and two soundtracks with piano, guitar, and harmonica solos for Pumpkin Circle with narration by Danny Glover, and Bread Comes to Life with narration by Lily Tomlin.

In 1983 Winston founded Dancing Cat Records to record the Masters of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, the finger style guitar tradition unique to the Islands, which began around 1830 (and predated the steel guitar by about sixty years). As of 2006, thirty six titles have been issued in the ongoing Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Series, recordings that have introduced many of the Slack Key guitarists to a global audience.

Please note that a food drive is held at all George Winston concerts by a local community service organization. Please join us in support by bringing a donation of non-perishable or canned food to the concert.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

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7:30 p.m.  (Doors open at 6:45 p.m. )

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