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Winston uses music to paint the moods of the seasons


George Winston

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George Winston, who will be in concert Wednesday night in Sandusky, is best known for his introspective solo-piano albums about seasons, including "December" and "Summer," and landscapes, such as "Plains" and his Grammy-winning "Forest."

His 10th and latest solo CD, "Montana - A Love Story," merges both of those concepts.

In an interview this week, Winston said he wanted the disc to bring together three influences from his childhood years in Montana - "the changing of the seasons, the different topographies, and sociological influences."

Winston wrote 5 of the 17 songs on the album and chose an eclectic mix of cover tunes, including Mark Isham's "Thumbelina," Philip Aaberg's "Nevertheless," Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," and Frank Zappa's "The Little House I Used To Live In."

"The Zappa song reminded me, just like the title, of the small house we lived in when I was growing up," Winston said. "I just couldn't believe it; it totally caught that for me, it was like, 'Whoa!' "

He added that performing the Zappa song on piano was particularly challenging.

"There's no piece I play that's like it. It took a while. I've been fooling around with it, off and on, since 1970," he said. "It's harder than it sounds. It's good to be stretched, to do new things, but way on top of that, I just loved the song."

Winston, 55, was raised primarily in Montana and credits the dramatic changing of the seasons there as the inspiration for his successful recordings that paint the moods of the seasons.

He released his first album, "Ballads and Blues 1971," in 1972, and was signed by Wyndham Hill records in 1980.

"Autumn," his first release for Wyndham Hill, earned Platinum Record status for sales of more than 1 million copies. His next two releases, "December" and "Winter into Spring," both from 1982, also passed the million-sales mark, and four more of Winston's solo recordings reached Gold Record status for sales of more than half a million copies each.

Winston started his own record label, Dancing Cat, primarily so that he could record the Hawaiian slack-key guitarists he admired but who had generally gone unnoticed on the mainland, including Led Kappana, Dennis Kamakahi, and Cyril Pahinui.

"Getting certain people recorded really is a primal thing for me," he said. "The people who inspired me so much, I want to get them heard. It's still one of my top priorities." Winston, who also plays guitar and harmonica, occasionally departs from the seasons/landscapes themes to record children's albums, a memorial and benefit disc for 9/11, a cover of the Doors songs in 2002 called "Night Divides the Day," and tributes to Vince Guaraldi's "Peanuts" albums.

He said he performs the songs over a long period of time, recording them and saving them for an appropriate time.

"I just record songs that I feel like recording, even if I don't know where they're going," he said. "But they always go someplace."

George Winston will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students, and food donations are being accepted at the door for the Victory Temple Soup Kitchen. Information: 419-626-1950 or 1-877-378-2150 or online at

Contact David Yonke at:

or 419-724-6154.

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