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George Winston's Piano Music Is A Soundtrack, Sans Film

Montana-raised George Winston, one of the best-known performers of contemporary instrumental music, returns to "Musician's Spotlight" for an update on his career, his recovery from illness, and his most recent recording, "Spring Carousel."
He's been making records for 46 years, and the titles of his releases reveal a lot about what makes George Winston tick. "Piano Solos" from 1972, released on guitarist John Fahey's Takoma label, shows the influence of stride piano players like Fats Waller and Earl Hines on young Winston’s compositions. By 1980, Winston was recording what became a series of albums evoking the seasons and specific geographic locations for Will Ackerman's Windham Hill label. One of the releases in this "rural folk piano" series, "December," sold 3 million copies, and at least six went gold or platinum.

"Linus and Lucy" and "Love Will Come" explore the compositions of Vince Guaraldi, and "Night Divides the Day" delves into the music of The Doors. Two volumes of "Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions" (hurricane and Louisiana wetlands benefit projects) combine Winston's love of the R & B piano of New Orleans with his commitment to playing music to benefit non-profit and relief organizations everywhere he performs.

Then there's his love of Hawaiian slack-key guitar music. Winston produces recordings of Hawaiian guitarists for his own record label, Dancing Cat Records, including Keola Beamer, Sonny Chillingworth, Leonard Kwan, and others.

When he's assembling a recording, Winston searches for common themes in his compositions, slowly building a structure. "The records have to kind of coalesce like liquids coalesce in the clouds — and you see a cloud and the cloud's a defined thing," Winston says. "It has to happen like that."

"It's kind of like doing a soundtrack for a film but there's no film," he says. "The music is the story."

(Broadcast: "Musician's Spotlight,"  9/27/18 and 8/8/19. Listen on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)

John Floridis, the host and producer of Musician's Spotlight, has been with Montana Public Radio since 1997. He has interviewed over 200 musicians during that time. He is also an independent recording and performing artist in his own right and a former registered music therapist.
Beth Anne Austein has been spinning tunes on the air (The Folk Show, Dancing With Tradition, Freeforms), as well as recording, editing and mixing audio for Montana Public Radio and Montana PBS, since the Clinton Administration. She’s jockeyed faders or "fixed it in post” for The Plant Detective; Listeners Bookstall; Fieldnotes; Musicians Spotlight; The Write Question; Storycorps; Selected Shorts; Bill Raoul’s music series; orchestral and chamber concerts; lecture series; news interviews; and outside producers’ programs about topics ranging from philosophy to ticks.
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