People Behind the Music

The Other Piano Man

By Eric Gall

Few pianist-composers can list Peanuts, The Doors, Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and the Velveteen Rabbit as influences, styles and projects that have inspired their music. In fact, his unique collection of influences put self-described “folk piano” player George Winston in a category all by himself.

On Calm Radio's free Solo Piano music channel, many listeners tag him as a new age solo piano artist and composer (a label he rejects for its “spiritual” and other connotations), he is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and a many-faceted composer and performer who is as proficient and engaging on the piano as he is on guitar, harmonica, and organ — his first musical love.

As he tells it, having given up on piano lessons as a kid, it was hearing The Doors' Ray Manzarek’s iconic playing in 1967 that inspired the young George to want to learn and to focus on playing the organ.

Soon, though, his discovery of Fats Waller’s music lured him back to the piano, on which he would soon develop his signature folk piano style — a unique, melodic mix of instrumental R&B, rock and American folk music.

As he says, “I was mainly working on stride piano, and I wanted something that was complementary to that — melodic and simpler, and using the sustain sound of the piano that I love.”

Recording his first solo piano album in 1972, his musical journey took off in multiple directions. He recorded a series of piano albums ranging from interpretations of the seasons; a solo piano soundtrack for the children's story The Velveteen Rabbit; 2 albums of the music of Vince Guaraldi, Peanuts soundtrack creator; to Night Divides the Day — an LP of his interpretations of the music of the Doors; all the way up to his most recent record, SPRING CAROUSEL — A Cancer Research Benefit — composed while Winston was recovering in hospital from a bone marrow transplant.

And that’s just (some of) his relaxing piano work. There’s much more to discover, including his solo harmonica and guitar music, the latter notably based on his love of the Hawaiian Slack Key finger-picking style. Not only does Winston love finger-picking his guitar, he’s even been known to use the technique on piano — reaching right inside the instrument, plucking and damping the strings with his left hand, while playing the keys with his right.

If, like George, you’re also a fan of New Orleans R&B piano, you can listen for influences such as James Booker, Professor Longhair, Henry Butler, Dr. John and Jon Cleary (to name just a few of his favourites) in his playing.

Come to think of it, you can listen for aspects of these well-known names — and for Vince Guaraldi and Ray Manzarek, and many others — but really what you’ll hear is George Winston.

So, sit back, relax and listen simply for the sheer pleasure of letting his music work its magic on your mind and soul. It’s a prescription that’s been proven effective by countless Calm Radio listeners…with more being won over every day by his relaxing piano music. And if you like what you hear here, George Winston is on tour now in the US, with dates stretching well into 2019.

George Winston can be frequently heard on Calm Radio's free online music Solo Piano channel. A great source for free relaxing piano music online. Also listen to George Winston on guitar on Calm Radio's free relaxing Solo Guitar music channel.

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