Saturday, June 16, 2007
Ramblin' Jack Elliott
At 9, Ramblin' Jack Elliott took in a Madison Square Garden rodeo. At 15, he ran away from home and got a $2-a-day job with Colonel Jim Eskew's Rodeo. A cowboy taught him a few guitar chords, and a rodeo clown showed him how to play the banjo. By the time the kid returned home, the die was cast. Now, some six decades later, Jack Elliott has rambled to every corner of the United States and most of Europe. In the 1950s, Woody Guthrie took Jack under his wing. The two traversed the country, and after Woody's death, Jack continued his wandering ways. He hung out with Jack Kerouac, played for England's Princess Margaret, performed in Greenwich Village clubs, and toured with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review. He has inspired musicians from Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney to Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen. In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. His latest CD is I Stand Alone (Anti- Records).
"When I was 16," says Jon Troast, "I borrowed my brother's guitar a few times and I got hooked." Like many kids, Jon spent countless hours in his room, learning songs from the radio, writing his own, and dreaming of being a rock star. Fast-forward a decade or so, and this Lake Geneva, Wisconsin-based folk-rock artist decided to pursue a full-time career in music. "I tried it, and didn't die of starvation, so I figured I could keep doing it," he says. His many fans hope he continues to eat three square meals a day and keeps on turning out the music they've come to value so highly. Troast's latest CD is Second Story, released last year.Prudence Johnson
That silky alto and striking style you'd expect to find Prudence Johnson singing at a high-tone nightspot. And you might. But be it a concert hall, a little jazz club or A Prairie Home Companion, Pru is the perfect complement. 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. On the silver screen, she appeared in Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It, and in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. On the music front, a new CD of French songs pop to classical with accordionist Dan Chouinard is in the works.Howard Levy
Howard Levy plays piano, sax, Chinese flute and a bunch of other instruments. But he is perhaps best known for taking the standard diatonic harmonica into territory where no one expects it to go covering the entire musical scale. Anyone who has ever picked up a little Hohner Marine Band can appreciate the feat; the rest of us just enjoy the music. Howard was raised in Brooklyn and in the part of Queens known as Rockaway Beach, where the Woody Allen movie Radio Days was filmed. He studied piano and theory at the Manhattan School of Music for four years, then turned his attention to pipe organ for two years. In 1969, he continued his schooling at Northwestern University, where played in the jazz band. He has lived in the Chicago area since 1972. He was a founding member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and he leads two Chicago bands. He has contributed to hundreds of CDs and won a Grammy in 1997. His current recordings are Cappuccino, with violinist Fox Fehling, and Secret Dream, with the nine-piece band Chévere de Chicago. Both CDs are on Levy's own label, Balkan Samba Records, as is his latest instructional DVD, Harmonica out of the Box, Vol. 1.Andriana Chuchman
Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman is a first-year member of the Ryan Opera Center, the professional artist-development program of Lyric Opera of Chicago. A native of Winnipeg, she earned a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from the University of Manitoba. She sang Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi with the Little Opera Company, and made her Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra debut in their Holiday Pops Concerts and Tour. She made her Manitoba Opera Company debut as Giannetta in L'elisir d'amore and was re-engaged in 2006 as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro. She spent the summers of 2005 and 2006 at the prestigious Merola Program of the San Francisco Opera Center. While there, she sang the leading role of Carolina in Il matrimonio segreto, and also portrayed Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro. She will make her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in the 20072008 season's production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Joining Chuchman for this APHC performance is pianist Timothy Shaindlin.
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).