Saturday, February 25, 2006
Butch ThompsonFor 12 years of his four-decade career, Butch Thompson was the house pianist on A Prairie Home Companion, dating back to the show's second broadcast in July 1974. As a soloist, he has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride and classic jazz piano. Described by Jazz Journal International as "the premier player in traditional jazz today," Thompson also performs with his well-known trio, his eight-piece New Orleans Jazz Originals, and with symphony orchestras, including the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony. Thompson's first recording, Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Piano Solos, has been re-issued as a Biograph CD. His latest recordings are Butch Thompson's Big Three: 'Tain't Nobody's Business (Jazzology Records), featuring Butch on piano, Duke Heitger on trumpet, and Jimmy Mazzy on banjo and vocals; and At First Light (Turnagain Music), in which Butch teams up with the Miami Philharmonic and conductor Gordon Wright for a program of originals by Wright.
Peter OstroushkoMandolinist Peter Ostroushko is a topflight instrumentalist and accomplished composer. The die was cast early on. Growing up in the Ukrainian community of northeast Minneapolis, Peter heard mandolin, balalaika and bandura tunes played by his father and family friends at get-togethers in their home and in church. It's the music that still echoes in Peter's memory and provides the basis for many of his compositions. He's played with everyone under the sun, from the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, from Bob Dylan to Chet Atkins. And he's released a dozen CDs, including Minnesota: A History of the Land (Red House), his Emmy-winning score for a Twin Cities Public Television special, and Heartland Holiday-Live at the Fitzgerald (Borderland Productions), a splendid collection of carols and other seasonal material. As Jethro Burns once said, "Go out of your way to see Pete." We couldn't agree more.
Adam GrangerAdam Granger is a flatpicking guitar wiz. He has written about that style, given lessons, and played countless tunes since he taught himself to play 45 years ago. In 1974, he moved from his native Oklahoma to Minnesota, where he became a charter member of the Powdermilk Biscuit Band, A Prairie Home Companion's first house band. Following his APHC stint, he played for eight years in The Eclectic Brothers, an acoustic swing trio, then returned to solo work. His book-CD set, Granger's Fiddle Tunes for Guitar, is the largest collection of fiddle tunes in guitar tablature in the world. His latest album, Adam Granger's Christmas Guitar (Jeep Records), was released last year.
Dan ChouinardPianist and accordion maven Dan Chouinard performs and records with Prudence Johnson, Peter Ostroushko, Maria Jette and many other Prairie Home favorites. For six years he conducted The Singer's Voice, a radio show where he interviewed singers from his post at the piano. Over the years, he hosted more than 200 guests on that program. This former teacher of French and Italian has toured Europe extensively by bicycle, carrying little more than a tent and an accordion. "A wonderful way to travel," he says, "especially if you keep the accordion to a manageable size." In May of 2005, he drew on his travel adventures to create a musical evening called Café Europa. The show played to a wildly enthusiastic audience at St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater and was later broadcast on the stations of Minnesota Public Radio. Dan also serves as a music director at the Church of Saint Joan of Arc in Minneapolis.
Bill Hinkley and Judy LarsonGarrison Keillor first heard Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson playing in the lobby of a south Minneapolis theater in 1972. The couple's association with A Prairie Home Companion dates back to July 6, 1974, the first show. Bill plays numerous instruments and his friends swear there isn't a songany style, any periodhe doesn't know. Judy's vocals and guitar accompaniment are truly irresistible. Together they dabble in blues, old-time, vintage jazz, Nordic folk, Latin and Irish music, and a jug band tune every now and then. In 1999 Bill was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and in 2000 he and Judy received a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association. Their CD, Out in Our Meadow, is on Red House Records.
Prudence JohnsonPrudence Johnson's career in music has taken her from stage (honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall) to silver screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It). As one music critic put it, "[There's] not a genre she hasn't interpreted with her ducky, sensual alto voice and terminally good taste." Her 10 album releases include Moon Country, featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and 'S Gershwin with pianist Dan Chouinard. Collaborating with four Minnesota composers, she created A Girl Named Vincent, the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music and scheduled for CD release. Prudence also appears on (and produced) a new recording of Gales of November, the concert version of the play Ten November, chronicling the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. The CD is on the Sleeper label.
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).