Inspired by Ray Manzarek's keyboard playing with the Doors, Winston initially took up organ in the late '60s; he switched to acoustic piano after hearing recordings of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson. His first solo piano album was on guitarist John Fahey's label in 1972; subsequent solo albums on the Windham Hill label included programmatic compositions based on the seasons — Winter Into Spring
features shimmering, impressionistic lines suggesting the thaw of mountain streams. Although Winston vehemently resists the "New Age" label, preferring to more accurately describe his style as "rural folk piano," he is widely considered one of the early pioneers of the genre. But his influences (Frank Zappa, Andreas Vollenwieder, Chet Atkins, New Orleans pianist Henry Butler) are as diverse as the material he chooses to cover (Irish folk tunes, the jazz-inflected music of Vince Guaraldi, "Corrina, Corrina," the Pachelbel Kanon). And his latest release, Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors
, is both a return to the roots of his inspiration and a continuation of his unorthodox process of selection: solo piano renditions of both well-known and obscure songs by the fabled band. Doors fans may scratch their heads all they want; the project has Manzarek's blessing: "I love this CD. George has captured the essence of the Doors and added his own unique voice."
With very little radio air play, George Winston has carved out a successful career for three decades by playing exactly what he wants - an awesome accomplishment. And that has allowed him to pursue a pet project on his own Dancing Cat record label: the cataloging, producing, and recording of Hawaiian slack guitar. This soulful, traditional style of acoustic finger-picking uses alternate tunings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, harmonics, and slides to produce a beautiful, unique and emotional effect. Winston's label has released almost 40 albums of this unusual traditional music by many of Hawaii's finest artists in the genre.
Winston's concert Monday, February 10 at the Empire will undoubtedly include some Hawaiian slack guitar along with classical music, R&B, and music from the Doors. Volunteers will sell CDs donated by Winston and his Dancing Cat label; all proceeds from those sales will benefit the San Antonio Food Bank. Fans are also asked to bring donations of non-perishable food items to be collected at the door. •
Monday, February 10
The Empire Theatre
226 N. St. Mary's