At Lisner Auditorium Monday night, pianist George Winston never sounded better than when he was under the spell of one of his role models.
There were, of course, plenty of lulling pastoral meditations to go around. Winston, after all, helped launch the New Age music movement two decades ago with impressionistic pieces inspired by seasonal themes. Full of tinkling treble figures, arpeggiated chords and portentous bass notes, these performances were sometimes evocative but more often lulling or dull.
Fortunately, Winston had several changes of pace in store, as if aware that too many of his own piano musings might turn the concert into a massive sleepover. Although he is something of a dilettante when it comes to playing Harlem stride piano--he lacks the powerful left hand necessary to vigorously drive the music--his rambunctious tribute to Fats Waller provided a welcome contrast to the evening's contemplative offerings. The same could be said for the R&B music Winston performed during a medley inspired by New Orleans pianists James Booker and Henry Butler.
Other appealing diversions included Winston's tribute to the late jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi--which took the form of an appropriately animated pairing of "Linus and Lucy" and "You're in Love, Charlie Brown"--and a pair of shimmering Hawaiian slack-key guitar pieces performed on a seven-string acoustic guitar.