The Doors unlock Winston’s passion |

The Doors unlock Winston’s passion

BRECKENRIDGE – When you think of George Winston’s piano solos, you probably don’t think of the Doors, but they have been one of his main musical inspirations since 1967.

His new album, “Night Divides the Day – the Music of the Doors” features 13 solo piano versions of the Doors best-known songs, including “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Light My Fire” and “Riders on the Storm.”

“There’s an occasional tune I bend out of shape, but most – if you know the song – you would recognize,” Winston said about his new CD.

The Doors also inspired the first album he recorded in 1980, “Autumn,” but he based it on the concept of playing one long song like the Doors rather than playing specific tunes.

“Autumn” was the first of four albums based on the seasons, which is Winston’s biggest inspiration.

“I grew up in Montana, where the seasons were very distinct,” he said. “They affect everything we do. For me, it’s the bottom line. The seasons are my inspiration – not the piano or me. I’m just a librarian or keeper. I probably wouldn’t be playing music if I lived on the equator. There’s a good chance I might not be inspired to play.”

Winston’s relation to his music has been different from that of most musicians. He took piano lessons when he was 7 but quit because he wasn’t enamored with the sound, and he wanted to play baseball instead.

He didn’t return to the keyboard until he was 18, when he heard his first Doors album. He had always loved the sound of the organ, but when he heard the Doors play, listening wasn’t enough – he had to play.

He had no intention of returning to the piano – until he heard Fats Waller about three years later. The way Waller approached the piano unlocked an appreciation and passion for the instrument that grew. His passion led to eight solo piano albums that have all gone gold, platinum or multi-platinum.

Part of Winston’s unorthodox approach to music is he never listens to music recreationally – he only listens to music he’s studying. And, he doesn’t seek the music out. His philosophy revolves around the idea that the universe is one big unknown. He’s open to outside influences, but he can’t control what they are.

With such a philosophy, listeners unfamiliar with his music might think he’s a new age pianist, but his music is down to earth – like the seasons. It’s a melodic impressionistic style that blends American folk music and instrumental pop and the rhythm-and-blues he grew up with.

The last glitch that separates Winston from most other musicians is he doesn’t play for his own satisfaction.

“I don’t play for pleasure,” he said. “I play to play for people.”

Winston describes himself as very introverted and, in fact, not social.

“The deepest relationship I can have is with music, not personally,” he said. “On the other hand, the reason I play is for people. My relationship with people is through music. I come out of a cave and play a song, and then I go back in. But the reason I’m in the cave is for people – to play for people. It’s a non-social way of being social. I’ve never been to a party in my life. I don’t hang out. I’m too busy with my music. I’m a soloist in every way you can imagine.”

Winston performs about 110 concerts throughout the nation and in Asia and Europe. In 1985, he began recording Hawaiian slack key guitar masters, and he includes slack key pieces in his shows.

“I knew that something very deep was missing in my life,” he said. “When I heard the great slack key guitarists in 1974, I knew instantly that’s what I was looking for. … I’ve adapted the Hawaiian musical language to express my feelings about Montana on guitar.”

Winston performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 the day of the show, and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at


George Winston will work with the Dillon Community Church Food Bank to collect nonperishable food items for the local food bank at his concert Friday, July 11.

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