Self-described "rural folk piano" player George Winston was among the earliest and most successful proponents of the genre of contemporary instrumental music later dubbed new age. Although born in Michigan in 1949, he was raised primarily in Montana, the extreme seasonal changes he experienced there later greatly influencing the pastoral feel of his music. Even as a child, Winston preferred instrumental music over vocal performances, counting among his early heroes Booker T. and the MGs, Floyd Cramer, and the Ventures; he did not take up music until after high school, however, beginning with organ and electric piano but moving to acoustic piano by 1971. Influenced by the stride piano of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson, Winston turned from rock and R&B to jazz, and soon released his first solo piano effort, Ballads and Blues — 1972, after which he mysteriously retired from music for the next several years.
Discovering the music of the legendary New Orleans R&B pianist Professor Longhair in 1979 was the epiphany Winston was seeking to inspire a return to performing; signing to the Windham Hill label, between 1980 and 1982 he recorded a trilogy of albums — Autumn, Winter into Spring, and December — of impressionistic, seasonal-themed piano musings which laid much of the groundwork for the new age boom to follow. Winston's music continued to grow in popularity and influence in the years to follow, but in typically enigmatic fashion, he virtually dropped from sight for the remainder of the 1980s, resurfacing only in 1986 to score a reading of The Velveteen Rabbit by actress Meryl Streep. Finally, in 1991, he returned to action, completing his seasonal cycle with Summer; Forest followed three years later. In 1996, Winston paid tribute to another of his greatest influences with Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi. A compilation album, All the Seasons of George Winston, was released in the spring of 1998, followed a year later by Plains.The new millennium brought anniversary editions of several of his landmark albums, including Autumn, December and Winter Into Spring, as well as the 2001 album Remembrance: A Memorial Benefit, which was Winston's response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. ~ Jason Ankeny