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Album Review: Night
George Winston
Cover image of the album Night by George Winston
George Winston
2022 / RCA Records
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Night is the sixteenth solo piano album from George Winston, an artist I've been following since a friend turned me on to his music back in the 1980's. I saw Winston in concert several times in San Francisco and was always surprised when he referred to his music as "folk piano" rather than "new age" or any of the other genres of instrumental music. It makes sense, though, when you realize how much Winston's music has been influenced by blues, New Orleans musicians and other styles of music. Winston's first album was Ballads and Blues 1972, making Night his 50th anniversary recording.

The twelve tracks on Night include four original pieces plus arrangements of songs by Leonard Cohen, Allen Toussaint, John Creger, Laura Nyro, traditional Hawaiian songs and others. In addition to the "traditional" way of playing the piano (fingers on the keys), Winston sometimes utilizes other interesting techniques like muting some of the strings with one hand inside the piano, plucking the strings, etc.

Quoting George Winston: “Night is a collection of songs that I’ve recorded at five different studios. 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.” 

Night begins with "Beverly," a Winston original that tells of a chance meeting with a kind and mysterious person at night - a meeting that would be completely different if it happened during the day. Gentle, tender and very melodic, it's a great start! "Freedom For the Stallion" is a classic composed by New Orleans pianist/composer Allen Toussaint. Slow, bluesy and very soulful, it's a great arrangement! "Blues For Richard Folsom" by John Creger is played with Winston's left hand muting the strings inside the piano and his right hand playing the keys. This technique gives the piano a very quiet, night-like sound. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is one of my all-time favorite songs, so I had very high expectations for Winston's arrangement. I can't say I'm crazy about this one, but it's a very interesting arrangement. "Making a Way" by Roderick Taylor is a beauty that is very simple, gentle and heartfelt - a favorite! "Kai Forest" is a Winston original and is played with some of the strings muted and some not. There is a lot of reverb in this one (likely using the damper pedal) that gives it an otherworldly feeling. Very spare and atmospheric, I really like this one, too! "Wahine Hololio" is a traditional Hawaiian song inspired by Slack Key guitarist Keola Beamer. Winston mentions that he rarely plays Hawaiian songs on the piano, but that this one worked - and it does! "Dawn" is a Winston original where he uses improvisation as well as muted and plucked strings to convey the feeling of when the sun is about to rise. More ambient than melodic, it's a very effective piece. The album closes with "Hana (A Flower For Your Heart)" by Shoukichi Kina, "a morning (and daytime in general) song" that turns the darkness of the night into a soft morning light - a great ending to a fascinating album!

Night is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and the various streaming sites, including Spotify.
May 10, 2022
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