Famous pianist also plays guitar
Playing piano internationally at least 110 dates a year and with more than 11 piano solo records and numerous guest appearances on friends’ CDs, George Winston has made quite a name as a musician since his first recording in 1972.
Winston sells out venues wherever he goes, including the times he has held solo piano performances here at Don Baggett Theatre.
Five years ago, Winston added solo guitar concerts to his resume. The pianist will donate his time Saturday in a benefit for and at the Center for the Arts. For his first time before a Nevada County audience, Winston will play guitar.
Winston, who also has started to play solo harmonica concerts, doesn’t have a favorite instrument.
“It’s like which kid do you like the best? Whichever one I’m holding on my lap,” Winston answered rhetorically Tuesday from his Santa Cruz home.
He appreciates the instruments’ dissimilarities.
“It’s a different scene because you’re facing the audience with guitar. Piano you’re isolated because you’re playing at a right angle,” Winston said. “Piano’s a machine, a bicycle; and guitar is like walking, nothing is helping you make that sound. I love the piano because it’s a big old cumbersome thing, which I’m glad it is because of the power, it’s a whole band.”
For piano, Winston plays what he calls folk piano or rural folk melodic along with R&B and stride piano.
His favorite guitar styles are Hawaiian slack key guitar and mainland American music, which includes Appalachian fiddle tunes, folk songs, standards, “Montana guitar originals” and ragtime.
Since 1983, Winston has also promoted slack key through his Dancing Cat Records by so far recording 36 albums by 14 of that genre’s guitarists. His own two guitar CDs were released in 1985 and 2001.
“They’re my influences and teachers and I love them. If they affected me this much, they probably affected others,” explained Winston on why he produces the slack key recordings featuring other musicians.
Winston wants to educate listeners that slack key, characterized by a wide variety of tunings, “is fingerstyle guitar, not steel guitar folks. That’s two great guitar traditions.”
Saturday’s concert is one of a handful of annual guitar benefits Winston donates his time to across the country.
“I try to help out the best I can. Everyone’s trying to do something,” Winston said modestly.
In addition to benefiting the Center for the Arts, Saturday’s concert will also help The Food Bank of Nevada County. Audience members are encouraged to bring non-perishable food item donations to be donated to the Food Bank. Food Bank volunteers will also sell CDs, tapes and videos that Winston donated to the nonprofit organization.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: George Winston in a guitar benefit
WHEN: Saturday at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., in Grass Valley
ADMISSION: $15. Advance tickets are at Herb Shop Records, Yabobo, BriarPatch, Book Seller or by calling (800) 594-8499
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