Saturday, June 18, 2005
Howard LevyHe was raised in Brooklyn and Queens, the part of Queens known as Rockaway Beach, where the movie Radio Days was filmed. He studied piano and theory at the Manhattan School of Music for four years, then studied pipe organ for two years. In 1969 he went to study at Northwestern University, played in the jazz band, and has lived in the Chicago area since 1972. Last May he did a tour of Europe with pianist Anthony Molinaro; nine shows in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. He did a concert in Prague with the Czech National Symphony, his Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra, the first of such work to be recorded. He was a founding member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and is currently leading two bands in Chicago. He has contributed to hundreds of CDs and won a Grammy in 1997. He has taken the standard diatonic harmonica into territory where no one expected it could go, covering the entire musical scale; anyone who has ever picked up a little Hohner Marine Band can appreciate that. He has just released three new CDs on his own Balkan Samba Records label.
The Ditty BopsTheir act doesn't fit the usual categories and has been described as everything from innocent and whimsical musical theater to a sophisticated early jazz swirl with heavenly harmonies; to an upbeat mix of country swing, Tin Pan Alley and contemporary rock. They admit to a range of influences as diverse as Merle Travis, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, Django Reinhardt, and Velvet Underground. They are California women, Amanda from Topanga and Abby from Shasta County in the north; they met in New York City in the late 90s and joined a band that did 1920s covers, in costume. They moved back to California and discovered they had both learned to juggle as kids, a coincidence too unlikely to ignore; they assembled a show and began to work in small cafes and coffee houses. They were also selling homemade pasta at 6:00 AM at the LA farmers' market. They did not go unnoticed for long and now have a contract with Warner Brothers, releasing The Ditty Bops in October of 2004. They've been touring and have made appearances on national late night television.
Mila Vocal EnsembleThey are a professional women's vocal ensemble committed to carrying on the vocal traditions of over thirty countries, in over a dozen distinct vocal styles. Grounded in the harmonic traditions of Eastern Europe, their repertoire also includes music from Central and Western Europe, Asia and the Americas. The seven singers hail from unique musical backgrounds and together they speak a dozen languages; they've studied with vocalists from Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine. They have two rehearsals a week, four hours each, and are passionate about accurately capturing regional style and nuance. In a typical concert they will use fifteen different vocal techniques. They have two CDs available, a holiday concert titled From a Dark Night and a studio album, Sadila Moma, featuring songs from Bulgaria, Latvia, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Ukraine and the U.S.
Andy SteinViolinist and saxophonist Andy Stein has been a regular on A Prairie Home Companion since 1989. Stein collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson. He has appeared on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, and has performed with such artists as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and many others.
Prudence JohnsonPrudence Johnson's 25-year career in music has taken her from honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall, from the theater stage to the Silver Screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It), from the Midwest to the Middle East. Her ten album releases include Little Dreamer, a collection of international lullabies, Moon Country, which features the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and S'Gershwin, a collaboration with pianist Dan Chouinard. She recently collaborated with four Minnesota composers to create A Girl Named Vincent, a presentation of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music to be released on CD this year, and is currently writing a play about Elisabeth Hauptmann, an uncredited collaborator of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Prudence is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).