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BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
During a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Bob Dylan was asked what he thought of BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet. Dylan replied, “That's my kind of music!” Lots of folks could say the same. The band — Michael Doucet, David Doucet, Billy Ware, Tommy Alesi, Jimmy Breaux and Mitch Reed — has spent 30-plus years dedicated to preserving the Cajun style, and blending elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, and more into a tasty musical mix. Alligator Purse (Yep Roc Records) is the latest of their 29 albums.
As a kid, Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson loved listening to her dad's record collection Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee. She grew up to be a top-flight artist in her own right, singing on concert and club stages worldwide. She is the creator of Fever, A Tribute to Peggy Lee, which she has performed throughout the U.S., and a new Peggy Lee show called “Happy with the Blues.” Connie has released eight albums on the Minnehaha Music label. The latest, Little Did I Dream, is a collection of songs by Dave Frishberg.
Heather Masse grew up in rural Maine and currently makes her home in New York. She frequently appears on A Prairie Home Companion, often with her band the Wailin' Jennys. In 2009, while the Jennys took a break from touring, Heather kept busy with other projects, like performing with her Brooklyn-based outfit, Heather and the Barbarians a group that first formed when the members were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. Heather's new solo album is called Song Bird (Red House).
Andrew Pierzina is a skilled and versatile acoustic and electric guitar player, known for good instincts and great tone. He has worked with a long list of Twin Cities groups, including the Andra Suchy Band. Andrew and Andra also represent the engineering know-how and vocal talent behind ASAProcks, their online recording session service, offering vocals, guitar work, and voice-overs.
Andra Suchy spent her childhood on a farm near Mandan, North Dakota, the daughter of two talented singers. By the time she was in grade school, she was traveling around, doing concerts and festivals with her family. She moved to Minneapolis in 1996, and these days, she sings with several local groups in the Twin Cities area including the all-girl trio The Dollys. She also works as a back-up singer and as a jingle singer on commercials for White Castle, Target, and more. Andra's solo CD is called Patchwork Story.
Salsa del Soul Quintet
Salsa del Soul Quintet formed almost a decade ago with one purpose in mind: to provide great dance music for Minneapolis/St. Paul-area salsa fans. Playing merengues, cha-chas, son montuno, and of course, salsa, this spicy group keeps dancers crowding the floor at clubs, festivals, and other events. The musicians of Salsa del Soul, who represent some of the finest on the Minnesota Latin music scene, are: Shai Hayo (timbales), Gloria “La Niña” Rivera (vocals), David Martin (bass), Bryan Rossi (piano), and Scott Agster (trombone).
Jearlyn Steele grew up in Indiana and first sang with her siblings (as the Steele Children). After she left home and moved to Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed. They started singing together again as the Steeles, and now music is the family business. Jearlyn also hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide. Jearlyn Steele Sings Songs from A Prairie Home Companion is her most recent CD.
Billy Steele is a composer, keyboardist, and record producer who works with various artists, including the Steeles with sister Jearlyn and his other siblings (he's the baby of the family). He's also a member of the Minnesota-based Grammy-winning ensemble Sounds of Blackness. His voice can be heard on the Disney DVD John Henry, from the American Legends series, and on soundtracks with Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, and many others. In addition, Billy Steele is an ordained minister.
Vern Sutton has collaborated with major musical organizations as a singer, actor, director and educator. He was a founding member of the Center Opera Company, which became the Minnesota Opera, and composers Dominick Argento, Robert Ward, Conrad Susa, Libby Larsen and others have written for his voice. For 36 years, he taught at the University of Minnesota School of Music, and for four summers he was artistic director of Opera in the Ozarks. At the Guthrie Theater, he has appeared in productions of A Christmas Carol and 1776. Vern was a guest on the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.
After moving to Minneapolis from Des Moines, Iowa, in 2001 Tanner Taylor quickly became one of Minnesota's top jazz pianists. He has performed with renowned musicians such as Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, David "Fathead" Newman, Marilyn Maye, Dick Oatts, Eric Alexander, Lew Tabakin, Delfeayo Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Bobby Shew, and Minnesota's own Connie Evingson. Tanner also tours nationally as pianist and conductor for the vocal ensemble Five by Design.
Robin and Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion in 1975, the same year they recorded their first album. In 2008, they released their 20th, Buena Vista (Red House Records). For more than three decades, these two have charmed listeners worldwide with their robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country. Robin and Linda claim that they make their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but truth be told, they spend the lion's share of their time on the road. And fans at every stop are glad they do.
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
Richard Dworsky leads APHC's Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. A keyboardist, composer and arranger, Rich has accompanied Garrison Keillor on U.S. and European concert tours and has provided original music for many Keillor recordings. He has worked with numerous other performers, including Al Jarreau and singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth. For seven years, he worked with the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, and he served as music director for the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion. His many CDs include So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions).
Chet Atkins called guitarist Pat Donohue “one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today.' So true. From swing and jazz to bottleneck blues and folk, Pat plays it all with a flourish of artistry and melodic inspiration. And he writes too unique compositions that have been recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Although most weekends are spent lending his talents to A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts, Pat manages to schedule dozens of solo concerts a year nationwide. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's albums.
For 10 years, bassist Gary Raynor taught in the University of Minnesota Jazz program, and he's now an instructor at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul. He has toured with Sammy Davis Jr. and performed with the Count Basie Band and the Minnesota Pops Orchestra. In addition, Gary has played for productions by the Guthrie Theater, the Ordway Music Theatre, and for dozens of Broadway touring shows. He is featured on two Janet Jackson albums, and has worked with many Minnesota-based artists, including Moore by Four and Connie Evingson.
St. Paul-based percussionist Peter Johnson started his career with a group that performed daily at L.A.'s Magic Mountain theme park. Since then, he has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. For three years, he was drummer for The Manhattan Transfer, with whom he toured the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. He was also Gene Pitney's drummer and served as principal percussionist with the Minnesota Sinfonia. Peter has written hundreds of jingles and underscores for commercials, and he composed and produced music for two Sesame Street Live shows.
Andy Stein has recorded with Itzhak Perlman, Plácido Domingo, and Marilyn Horne; toured China with a string quartet; and performed with orchestras from New York to the Pacific Northwest. He has also been a featured soloist in a number of Broadway Shows. Check out his CD Doin' Things —A Little Like Joe Venuti (Stomp Off). As John S. Wilson, jazz critic for The New York Times, said, “For a classically trained violinist, Andy Stein has been so thoroughly subverted by a succession of other musical styles that he has become, to twist Ellington's phrase, ‘beyond category."
Multi-instrumentalist and two-time Minnesota Music Award winner Joe Savage is a frequent addition to the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. Playing his primary instrument, pedal steel guitar, he has performed with classic country greats such as Bobby Bare, Stonewall Jackson, Hank Thompson, and Jean Shepard, to name a few. In addition to TV commercials, movie soundtracks, and various artists' projects, Joe's recording credits include his 2007 solo album, a sampling of his musical versatility titled Perennial Sideman. A new CD, Joe Savage Plays Country (Lilly Ray Records), is scheduled for release later this year.
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).