Although he usually dresses as if he just came into town directly from a Montana hunting lodge, the incomparable George Winston brings a sophisticated touch to the piano. Most famous for his three thematic albums: "December," "Autumn," and "Winter Into Spring," Winston will be in Salt Lake City presenting his "Winter Show" at Symphony Hall, Tuesday, Nov. 27th at 7:30 p.m.
Winston was born in Michigan in 1949 and grew up in Montana, Mississippi and Florida. He began playing after high school in Miami in 1967 and started on organ and electric piano, inspired by blues, rock, R & B and jazz.In 1971, after hearing records of the legendary swing pianist, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Winston switched completely to the acoustic piano. He began working on stride and blues pieces as well as slower impressionistic pieces. These slower, melodic compositions were influenced by solo guitarists like John Fahey, and by the piano sound itself.
In 1972, he recorded his first solo piano album "Ballads and Blues," which contained simple piano pieces reminiscent of Scott Joplin, but which Winston claimed came from the inspiration of Fats Waller and Jerry Lee Lewis.
In 1980, Winston recorded "Autumn," followed in 1982 by "Winter into Spring," and "December" later in the same year. His popularity soared in the early 80s as a direct result of these album, which evoke feelings of serenity.
His most recent project is the soundtrack for the "Velveteen Rabbit," a children's story narrated by Meryl Streep, and the soundtrack for the "Peanuts" television special, "This is America, Charlie Brown - The Birth of the Constitution."
Winston describes his style as "impressionistic," and "somewhere between folk and jazz." He records using solo piano only and strives for as many different sounds as possible. He treats albums as thematic concepts, mainly the seasons, choosing original and non-original pieces that fit.
During a live performance, also always solo, the first set usually consists of various songs from the released albums and other non-recorded songs, while the second set is centered around the current season.
He shifts the moods more in a live performance than on the album. In addition to the impressionistic pieces, he plays a few songs influenced by the blues, gospel and stride (or ragtime) piano traditions, and an occasional harmonica piece.
The live performance, according to Winston, needs more variety and surprises than someone listening to an album at home.
Increasingly, Winston is involved with producing albums by some of the musicians who have inspired and influenced him for many years, some of whom have never been recorded, on the Dancing Cat label.
As he has in past concerts, Winston is encouraging those who come to donate a can of food to Utahns Against Hunger. Tickets are available at the Salt Palace and all Smith'sTix outlets, at $16, $15 and $14 a seat. To charge by phone in Salt Lake City, call 363-7681 or long distance 1-800-888-SHOW.