Today marks the release of George Winston‘s new album NIGHT. It features four original Winston compositions, as well as stunning renditions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Allen Toussaint’s Freedom For The Stallion, plus additional standout interpretations.
Press release by Crossover Media
NIGHT is a vivid look into Winston’s nocturnal world where life begins as the sun sets on each day. Two decades in the making, NIGHT turns darkness into a prism of beauty as Winston captures his quintessential performances for a full-length studio album well worth the wait.
“NIGHT is a collection of songs that I’ve recorded at five different studios,” says George Winston. “There is a natural wonder that only occurs in the evening and NIGHT basically scales the clock from midnight to 7am. With every dark hour that passes, daytime will soon occur. The sun shines down on the earth all day, it warms the oceans and the forests, and awakens the majority of earth’s inhabitants, and at sundown the nocturnal animals wake up for nighttime activities, and there are feelings of solitude and uncertainty. This all translates well for inspiration for compositions and interpretations of other composers’ pieces.”
Track-By-Track Descriptions by George Winston:
“Beverly” for me represents an archetype of a chance meeting with a kind and mysterious person at night, someone that for some reason makes an impression on you, even though the encounter was very brief, and you never see them again. This person just appears and if you had met during the day, the experience would be totally different.
“Beverly” is a song that I often perform during my live concerts as part of the Summer Show.
2. Freedom For The Stallion by Allen Toussaint
Written by my friend, the beloved New Orleans pianist and composer Allen Toussaint (1938-2015), “Freedom for the Stallion” is one of many of his compositions I’ve tried over the years. I tend to not perform in NOLA, as I revere the New Orleans musicians so much and they have given me so much inspiration, so I would rather the audiences there hear a New Orleans musician rather than me, although I will play pretty close by, maybe an hour or two away in Louisiana and Mississippi.
I have often said that to me, New Orleans is the center of the universe for the traditions of (at least) the piano, trumpet, trombone, tuba, clarinet, and drums.
I have recorded two benefit albums based on New Orleans music: Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions: A Hurricane Relief Benefit (2006) and Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions 2: A Louisiana Wetlands Benefit (2010). All album proceeds benefit organizations providing relief to the region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the Voice of the Wetlands environmental organization, helping with the cleanup of the oil leak disaster.
3. Blues For Richard Folsom by John Creger
Written by my good friend John Creger, the story-telling blues-style song is a lot like the eight-measure blues of “See See Rider” and it has a profound set of verses that each one is a short story within itself. Previously, I only played it on guitar, and it has been in my head since 1974. One night in the studio, I spontaneously just started playing it and we recorded it. This version is very night to me with the muted notes and echoes. I have my left hand muting the strings inside the piano closest to me, with the right hand playing the keys. The technique reduces the volume attack of the struck notes, which leaves room for, and actually expands the sustain and the ring outs.
4. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
I didn’t know this song until my assistant engineer suggested I might like it and played the Jeff Buckley version for me. I liked it and wrote down the chords and immediately recorded two takes. I listened to both takes and preferred the one with the lower bass notes, and made a note of that, and filed it away, never playing it and not even thinking about it. My relationship with “Hallelujah” is kind of unique, as I don’t have a history with the song (maybe I heard the composer Leonard Cohen’s version a long time ago, but I don’t remember). When I was going through past recordings to see what might fit together, for the NIGHT album and when I heard it again after all those years, it seemed to fit with the other songs and the theme of the album.
When I select a song to record, I first and mainly pay the most attention to the chords and the key the song is in, and later to the melody. Normally, I’ll spend time studying and practicing a song that I like, and figuring out if it can work as a solo piano piece, and it can often take a long time, but here it was very spontaneous, and I got lucky.
5. Making A Way by Roderick Taylor
I attended some of the recording sessions for Rod Taylor’s “Making A Way,” and I was the first person he played it for after he composed it. Over time, they recorded three very different versions, and the song really got engrained in me. I knew I wanted to record it someday. It’s one of 14 songs of his that I’m working on, mainly from his 1973 album, Rod Taylor, that this song is on.
6. He’s A Runner by Laura Nyro
I’ve always loved this Laura Nyro song and was quite aware of the lyrics, which is pretty unusual for me. The chords were very night to me. I added an intro, which I also play in the middle of the song. Her music is very deep and very difficult to play, but fortunately this one worked out.
7. Kai Forest
Kai is Hawaiian for “water,” and is inspired by the forests and lakes from Western Washington through Northern Wisconsin. The mood of this piece encapsulates those forests, lakes, rivers, meadows, at night. There are other meanings as well. I incorporated the muting technique that I used on “Blues For Richard Folsom” on this song as well.
8. Wahine Hololio (Traditional Hawaiian)
I started learning this beautiful Hawaiian song in the 1970s on the guitar, especially inspired by the Hawaiian slack key guitarist Keola Beamer’s version. So, it always was in my head, and in the studio one night I spontaneously recorded this version. When I started to seriously consider what was going to be on NIGHT, I realized this track would fit well. I rarely play Hawaiian songs on the piano, but this seemed to work in the key of A minor on the piano.
9. At Midnight:
“At Midnight” reflects the times I have driven through Richmond, VA at midnight and later, after long nights in the recording studio there. Driving through Richmond at night often puts me in the mood of an Alfred Hitchcock TV episode running through my head. It is a striking night scene, with thick darkness, and with very few street lights in a lot of places.
I often play “At Midnight” live when I play the Winter Show.
10. Pua Sadinia (Not To Be Forgotten) by David Nape
Similar to “Wahine Hololio” and the Okinawan piece “Hana,” I first learned this Hawaiian song on guitar, inspired by the Hawaiian slack key guitarist Ray Kane’s version and it’s such a great ballad.
When I was in college in Central Florida, we used to sometimes stay up all night and go to the beach and watch the sunrise. I recall there being around a dozen stages of dawn, the layers of darkness being replaced with the subtleties of light. The feeling of dawn was in my head when I composed this track. I use quite a bit of improvisation, muting the strings, and plucking of the strings. It reminds me of the sun when it’s about to rise.
12. Hana (A Flower For Your Heart) by Shoukichi Kina
Written by the renowned Okinawan composer and singer Shoukichi Kina, I’ve loved this song for 40 years. About 20 years ago, I first tried it on guitar, and then some years later, I spontaneously recording it on piano. This is a morning (and daytime in general) song to me, and it closes the NIGHT album. With the night, daytime always eventually comes, so I didn’t want the album to only exist with feelings of and experiences that occur in the dark. I wanted it to move forward in time and resolve to the morning light, and essentially NIGHT spans midnight to 7am. “Hana” has been recorded by many artists, especially in Asia.
More about the artist
George Winston is undeniably a household name. He’s inspired fans and musicians alike with his singular solo acoustic piano songs selling more than 15 million albums. Winston’s music is evocative, offering us all a chance to take a step back from our perpetually busy lives and let our minds adventurously wonder. NIGHT is where things truly come alive for Winston. Whether on a performance stage, in a midnight recording session, practicing late at night, driving solo through urban city spaces, or witnessing nature grow under the moonlight, Winston celebrates his renowned 50-year career with an interstellar new recording for spring 2022.
George Winston’s classic albums, Autumn and December, are perennial favorites, along with Winter into Spring, Summer, Forest, Plains, Spring Carousel – A Cancer Research Benefit, his previous album, 2019’s Restless Wind as well as two volumes of the compositions of Vince Guaraldi, two volumes of benefit albums for the Gulf Coast disasters, and four other solo piano albums.
For more information and music samples, visit georgewinston.com.