It's hard not to admire the enthusiasm of George Winston, it really is. For one thing, he shines with sincerity whether talking about helping the homeless, dishing up the merits of Hawaiian slack-key guitar music, or paying tribute to those musical greats who have influenced his piano playing.
But at the end of the day, and certainly by the end of Winston's Kennedy Center Concert Hall performance Monday night, one wonders how many more homages to "Winter" and "Colors" it is reasonable for any conscious human to take.
His affections are in the right place, but are his piano skills? His devotees, and they are legion, would think so. But after 20 minutes of heavy pedaling, incessant ostinati and stabbed right-hand melodic lines -- the three key weapons in Winston's pianistic arsenal -- musical hypnotism easily gives way to catatonic glaze.
Winston played best when paying tribute to artists he loves: names like James Booker, "Fats" Waller and Teddy Walker. His stride piano was exceptional in "Cat and Dog," and his zydeco-styled "When the Saints Go Marching In" was as peppery as an oyster shooter. So why the repetitious tedium in his own compositions?
Clearly one man's meat is another's monotone. For some in the audience, "January Stars" possibly conjured pictures of a hoar frost and lightly dappled moonlight across winter firs. But this reviewer ended up thinking about where he could get a good deal on a Christmas tree.