George Winston’s Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions
is both a benefit album to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina as well as a tribute to New Orleans jazz piano. Those who have seen Winston perform in concert know that this style of music is one of his passions, so it’s fun to have a full recording of both quiet and rollicking forms of jazz piano from this artist. Six of the tracks are original compositions in the styles of some of Winston’s favorite jazz composers, three are covers, and one is an almost twelve-minute arrangement of the New Orleans musical staple, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Folks looking for meditation music should probably move on, although four of the tracks are much quieter and more what Winston’s fans have come to expect. All of George Winston's proceeds from this album will go directly to the Dancing Cat Benefit Fund, to be distributed to organizations helping people on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans to rebuild and return. In unity with the artist, RCA Records will be donating the bulk of its net profits to benefit musicians in the New Orleans area, so this is a very noble cause deserving of everyone’s support.
The CD opens with “New Orleans Shall Rise Again,” a Winston original inspired by favorite New Orleans pianists. Spirited and determined, this piece is a great way to begin and is indicative of what is to come on the album. “Creole Moon” by Dr. John is much darker, and Winston’s touch is very percussive. James Booker’s “Pixie” is a lighthearted highlight. Winston says in the liner notes that Booker has influenced his overall piano playing more than anyone, and Winston seems to feel very comfortable in this style, with its repetitive walking bass and all-over-the-piano right hand. “Stevenson” is a beautiful Winston original dedicated to a dear friend who died last year, filmmaker Stevenson J. Palfi. Sad and reflective, it is a loving tribute and eulogy. Parts 1 and 2 of “Gulf Coast Lullaby” are full of the vast open spaces that Winston is known for. These two pieces and “Stevenson” are much more ballads than blues, and since they are placed consecutively on the CD, feel right at home between the toe-tappers. “When The Saints Go Marching In” begins with a dark and stormy prelude that barely hints of what is coming. Once Winston gets cooking with the song itself, it is unfettered joy and the boisterous good time that is expected in New Orleans. With almost twelve minutes to explore the themes of the song, Winston really lets loose. “Blues for Fess, Beloved” ends the CD with a mournful piece inspired by Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd), who founded the New Orleans piano scene in the late 1940’s. The inspiration for and a strong influence on many, if not all, of the New Orleans-style pianists to follow, this is a sweet and fitting finale to an excellent benefit CD.
Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions
is widely available in retail stores and online. To hear samples, visit www.georgewinston.com
or amazon.com. Recommended!