George Winston, best known for his melodic rural folk piano style, has made no secret of the debt his playing owes to the musicians of
Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions features six Winston compositions inspired by the music of New Orleans as well as pieces written by or influenced by New Orleans pianists Henry Butler, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, and Jon Cleary. Winston interprets James Booker’s Pixie, Henry Butler’s complex composition The Breaks and Dr. John’s Creole Moon. Winston’s compositions run the gamut from up tempo to the melancholy.
New Orleans Shall Rise Again is an ode to The City and its music, Pixie #3 (Go•bajie) borrows its form from James Booker’s Pixie, and Stevenson is a moving eulogy for a lost friend.
The centerpiece of Gulf Coast Blues is Winston’s epic treatment of When The Saints Go Marching In. The arrangement starts at a deliberately ominous tempo inspired by Dr. John, before breaking into the song’s familiar celebratory melody and variations inspired by James Booker.
The festivities are interrupted when Winston’s left hand moves up an octave, inspired by Henry Butler, before returning to the melody. At the end of the tune he breaks into a stride piano section before ending with two hand rolls inspired by the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand).
The album closes gently with Blues for Fess, Beloved, a eulogy for Professor Longhair that leaves each note hanging in the air reverberating, thoughts offered to fallen friends and a region and a city struggling to get back on its feet.