George Winston visits the Beav Thursday |

George Winston visits the Beav Thursday

Pianist George Winston is playing a solo concert 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Beaver Creek's Vilar Center for the Arts.

BEAVER CREEK – Somewhere Charlie Brown is smiling.

Virtuoso pianist George Winston takes music you know, like Vince Guaraldi’s work with the Charlie Brown episodes and makes it his.

Let’s say he Winstonized it.

It often does no good to fiddle with an original composition. Can anyone hear “A Fifth of Beethoven” without becoming physically ill?

But then, by George, Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown music is Winstonized and it makes you say, “Yeah, that works.”

Winston plays Thursday night in Beaver Creek at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. It’s a delightful way to spend an evening, and it’s also a benefit for the local Salvation Army’s food bank.

“There’s always a local charity, people who get food to people,” Winston said in a telephone interview.

The local Salvation Army gets proceeds from the CD sales at the show.

It’s no small thing to find your voice, and Winston’s is distinctive. It’s identifiable but not overbearing on his latest album, “Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2.” It features Winston’s version of compositions by the late jazz pianist, including pieces from the Peanuts television specials.

He repeatedly watched all 16 Peanuts episodes for which Guaraldi wrote the music, carefully dissected all his albums, and Guaraldi’s wife loaned him the family tapes. He got to hear eight takes of some things.

When he found “Love Will Come No. 2” he knew he’d found a winner.

It doesn’t always work that way.

He tried to Winstonize about 30 Frank Zappa songs. Two worked out.

Vince Guaraldi, Professor Longhair and The Doors all seem to lend themselves to Winstonization.

“I want to do everything they do because I love everything. It works, lives and breathes as a piano solo,” Winston said.

He’s making more original music, he said.

“I never considered myself a composer by temperament,” he said.

He was in Ohio when he came across The Doors “Moonlight Drive.” He made his own version.

He has to do things differently than Jim Morrison and Ray Manzerek, the essence of Winstonization. There’s no singing, no slide guitar.

Winston grew up in Montana without television. He started playing the organ in 1967 when he heard The Doors. He switched to piano a few years later and came up with a style he calls folk piano to go with the stride piano style popularized by New Orleans pianists.

Eventually, the road and years of practice led him to his voice, his particular sound.

“I think I’m still finding the voice. When I start to think all the pieces are there, something else pops up,” he said.

Forcing your voice can kill it, he said.

“You can nurture it, encourage it,” he said. “You have influences, but your main influence is yourself. You’re still filtering everything. You take what you hear and filter it through your own experiences and what’s available.

“If you are a painter and all you have is a cave, that’s what you’ll use,” Winston said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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