Music News & Reviews

What you don’t know about George Winston, he’ll bring to ‘Woodsongs’ Monday

George Winston will perform Monday on the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.”
George Winston will perform Monday on the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.”

George Winston

Opening: The Outside Track. 6:45 p.m. March 13 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. $10. 859-280-2218. Woodsongs.com, Lexingtonlyric.tix.com.

After a 40-plus-year career, one might suspect that the world would have committed every artistic detail about George Winston to memory.

A genre-defying pianist who paints often pastoral instrumental portraits inspired heavily by his Montana upbringing, Winston has made no secret of championing his source material: The New Orleans stride pianist Henry Butler (for whom he produced two albums), the vanguard jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and rock stalwarts The Doors have all figured highly in Winston’s playing. He addressed the music of the last two directly on several tribute recordings — 1996’s “Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi,” 2002’s “Night Divides the Day: The Music of The Doors” and 2010’s “Love Will Come: Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2.”

For many fans, though, the seasonal inspirations behind his early Windham Hill albums — 1980’s “Autumn,” 1982’s “Winter into Spring” and especially the stark 1982 holiday set “December” — defined the immensely impressionistic tone of Winston’s piano approach.

Perhaps less familiar have been the benefit recordings that have peppered Winston’s catalog through the years — specifically, the 9/11-inspired “Remembrance” and the two-volume “Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions” (the first dedicated to Hurricane Katrina relief, the second a fundraiser for the Louisiana Wetlands).

Winston’s next benefit project, though, is far more personally grounded. Due out March 31, “Spring Carousel” is comprised of 15 solo piano pieces that Winston composed while recovering from a bone marrow transplant for Myelodysplastic Syndrome.

The pianist was hospitalized after a September 2012 concert in Idaho and underwent his transplant two months later.

The specific beneficiary of “Spring Carousel” will be City of Hope, the Southern California cancer treatment center where Winston received his transplant and spent much of his recovery time. Winston regularly played the hospital auditorium’s piano at night during his convalescence. He wrote nearly 60 songs during that period.

The pianist will showcase his new music with a return performance for the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center on Monday (he last was a guest of the program in 2010). Also on the bill will be the cross-continental Celtic ensemble The Outside Track.

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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