15 Songs, 53 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mastered for iTunes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mastered for iTunes
TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.7 out of 5

11 Ratings

11 Ratings

From MainlyPiano

KathyPiano7

Of the iconic pianists of the past 35-40 years, I’m sure George Winston is one of the first that comes to most people’s minds. If you ask many contemporary solo pianists who their primary influences are, Winston is almost always mentioned. I discovered George Winston, Yanni, Suzanne Ciani, and David Lanz a few years after I started teaching piano lessons in 1981. What a wonderful discovery it was to find these incredible artists who were creating new piano music that was accessible and exciting, bringing the piano actively back into the public’s awareness. I saw George Winston in concert several times at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco and loved that he performed in this formal setting in his jeans, flannel shirt and no shoes. Although his name is one of the first to come up in discussions of “new age” piano, Winston has insisted for decades that his style is “folk” or “rural folk” piano and has nothing to do with the spiritual connotations of “new age” anything.

So much new music has come across my desk over the past several years, that I hadn’t really thought about how long it had been since George Winston had released a new album (almost seven years), so it was a real shock to learn that he composed the music for "Spring Carousel" while recovering from a bone marrow transplant in 2012 and 2013 at City of Hope in Southern CA. Winston has recorded and released several benefit albums over the years, and the proceeds from this one will directly benefit City of Hope National Medical Center. While he recovered from the transplant surgery, Winston spent his time at the piano in the hospital auditorium every night. The fifteen tracks on this album were selected from 59 recorded pieces that Winston composed at City of Hope in early 2013. This is his fourteenth solo piano album.

The pieces on "Spring Carousel" can be grouped into three categories: “Carousels” (Winston composed twenty-one of these swirling pieces, nine of which are included on the album), up-tempo pieces called “Ms. Mysteries,” and slower “Bouquets.” There is a real vibrance and spirit to the music, which is often playful and carefree and sometimes reflects the influence of New Orleans piano legends Professor Longhair (1918-1980) and James Booker (1939-1983).

The album begins with the first of the Carousel pieces, a 39-second prelude that sparkles as it quickly spins. “Carousel 2” is subtitled “Cold Cloudy Morning,” and it, too, has a sparkling effect as it slowly revolves. “Muted Dream” is the only piece Winston has actually created as he dreamed. With his left hand muting the strings of the piano, the right hand plays a quick pattern that resembles a finger-style technique on guitar. “More Than You Know” is a beautiful, poignant ballad that pays tribute to those who have inspired Winston. “Ms. Mystery 1” expresses the freedom and spontaneity of an artist playing the piano late at night, letting his fingers wander around the piano keys as he reflects, composing without really thinking about it. “Night Blooming” is a direct reflection on how the body heals while sleeping. Winston’s use of the dampers of the piano gives the piece a soft, dreamy feeling. “Fess’ Carousels” is a medley of two Carousel pieces and the title refers Professor Longhair’s nickname. One of my favorites, it has a very light, ragtime style that resembles the music of some of the older merry-go-rounds. “Ms. Mystery 2 (Spring)” is played with a prepared piano that makes some of the piece sound very “old timey” and other parts sound fairly normal. One of the liveliest pieces on the album, this one really rocks! “Ms. Mystery 3 (F minor Soul)” is slow, bluesy, and reflective - another favorite. “Requited Love” ends the album spinning joyfully, dancing on a cloud.

"Spring Carousel" is very definitely a musical “event” with the added bonus of benefiting an exceptionally worthwhile cause. It’s great to hear George Winston is back in action and sounding better than ever! Very highly recommended!

About George Winston

Self-described "rural folk piano" player George Winston was among the earliest and most successful proponents of the genre of contemporary instrumental music later dubbed new age. Although born in Michigan in 1949, he was raised primarily in Montana, the extreme seasonal changes he experienced there later greatly influencing the pastoral feel of his music. Even as a child, Winston preferred instrumental music over vocal performances, counting among his early heroes Booker T. & the MG's, Floyd Cramer, and the Ventures; he did not take up music until after high school, however, beginning with organ and electric piano but moving to acoustic piano by 1971. Influenced by the stride piano of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson, Winston turned from rock and R&B to jazz, and soon released his first solo piano effort, Ballads and Blues 1972, after which he mysteriously retired from music for the next several years.

Discovering the music of the legendary New Orleans R&B pianist Professor Longhair in 1979 was the epiphany Winston was seeking to inspire a return to performing; signing to the Windham Hill label, between 1980 and 1982 he recorded a trilogy of albums -- Autumn, December, and Winter into Spring -- of impressionistic, seasonally themed piano musings that laid much of the groundwork for the new age boom to follow. Winston's music continued to grow in popularity and influence in the years to follow, but in typically enigmatic fashion, he virtually dropped from sight for the remainder of the '80s, resurfacing only in 1986 to score a reading of The Velveteen Rabbit by actress Meryl Streep.

Finally, in 1991, Winston returned to action, completing his seasonal cycle with Summer; Forest followed three years later. In 1996, he paid tribute to another of his greatest influences with Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi. A compilation album, All the Seasons of George Winston, was released in the spring of 1998, followed a year later by Plains. The new millennium brought anniversary editions of several of his landmark albums, including Autumn, December, and Winter into Spring, as well as the 2001 album Remembrance: A Memorial Benefit, which was Winston's response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. His 2002 release, Night Divides the Day, focused on the music of one of his earliest influences, the Doors. Montana: A Love Story from 2004 was inspired by Winston's childhood in Montana. An impressive solo piano outing, Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions, released as a benefit set for hurricane relief, appeared from RCA in 2006.

Winston continued to perform solo, but didn't cut another record until Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2 appeared in 2010. Winston toured in support of the album, playing solo piano concerts as well as performing on slack key guitar and harmonica. In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon's explosion and its resultant massive oil spill and environmental disaster in 2010, Winston monitored the situation closely and became deeply concerned about the loss of the wetlands in Southern Louisiana. In response, he issued another benefit recording, entitled Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions, Vol. 2: A Louisiana Wetlands Benefit, in March 2012 in order to help with funding bluesman Tab Benoit's The Voice of the Wetlands organization and other environmental concerns resulting from the crisis. In 2015 Winston underwent a successful bone marrow transplant to combat myelodysplastic syndrome, an illness that can sometimes lead to leukemia. Two years later he released the cancer research benefit LP The Spring Carousel. ~ Jason Ankeny

HOMETOWN
Michigan
GENRE
New Age
BORN
1949

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