Pianist George Winston is a different sort of soul. His friend Janet Schriver says he’s from another planet. If that planet is where musical genius is born, book yourself a flight. Better yet, come out to circa. URBAN ARTISAN LIVING tonight or tomorrow night. The Grammy winning pianist plays two shows in Fondren this weekend to benefit his Winston Project, a charity for disadvantaged youth. A portion of proceeds will also go to The Friends of Hudspeth and Mississippi State Hospital.

Two nights ago, amidst a retail space being emptied for his performances, Winston arrived unassumingly and made introductions. And then he proceeded to learn a thing or two from circa. owners Craig and Michele Escude’s son, a guitar player. “He should give me lessons,” he said of the 14 year old. Then, while autographing posters for the upcoming event, he talked of semi-modern technology, but admitted he’s lost on popular music – post Jim Morrison. “What’s a Lady Gaga,” he asked, as we quizzed his musical knowledge. While a fan of iTunes to “download and learn pieces,” he admits to being clueless as to how it has helped his career. “I just play,” he said, “and my office takes care of the other stuff.”

The sometimes Santa Cruz, Californian who grew up in Montana, Jackson, and Miami, played basketball at Chastain in junior high in the early 60’s where he met his former majorette buddy Schriver. “I trust her and do what she says to do,” he told us of how he settled upon a children’s beneficiary for his foundation. “Janet knows where the need is.” And Winston, who says “without New Orleans, I wouldn’t be playing,” saw a need there, too. He has recorded on Gulf Coast Impressions, a benefit for the coast and the crescent city. He will return for volume two to benefit oil spill victims.

Winston’s performances are where he feels most at home and alive. With a career dating back to 1972, he says he’s most known for his live shows rather than his 15 recordings. “I play for one person or a crowd,” he says. “Without being able to play for people, there is no music.”

Both shows begin at 7:30pm with tickets for the first night being $75. Saturday night’s show will include a meet and greet with the artist after the performance, and tickets are $100. Light appetizers will be served during this ‘all ages,’ alcohol-free event. Only 150 tickets per show will be available and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com or in person at circa. in Fondren.

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