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July 20, 2010

Bertram Levy & Peter Ostroushko - First Generation

Back to some vinyl again!
We have here another incredible out of print Flying Fish LP. There is no information on this album pretty much anywhere, and little to none about Bertram Levy. Peter Ostroushko, however, is known as one of the finest mandolin and fiddle players in America. Aside from being able to play anything from bluegrass to klezmer to classical, Ostroushko is always characterized by a sparklingly clear and beautiful tone. Like Doc Watson, he can play dazzlingly fast runs, but never puts in a note that isn't needed. If in doubt, he takes the conservative approach rather than the showy one. Let the music breathe a little, you know? Let the silence speak.

This album is the only album made by a group of musicians calling themselves First Generation. They are all first generation immigrants to the US. And that is what gives this album its most distinctive and blogworthy quality. In fact, that is what gives the USA its most distinctive and noteworthy quality. The meeting ground. The melting pot. All American music is the product of immigrants coming together, interbreeding, intersocializing, and interspersing. But sometimes people forget that, and bluegrass fans boo black musicians, and white folks get accused of ripping of jazz & blues musicians, and everyone conveniently forgets that Native Americans exist. So these first generation immigrants remind us. Fruitful births happen when different people come together. Monocultured tradition breeds sterility and hemophilia. That's what a hick is. You'll find them still in royal families... Dynamism comes from the interplay of radically different bodies. Polyculture is permaculture. To blindly follow a tradition in a rapidly changing world is to render oneself an irrelevant artifact of the past before one has even entered the present. That's why World Fusion music works. The cultures of our world are fusing anyway, faster than we can even know. May as well have a music that's relevant. Lots of folks are realizing that now. First Generation realized it 25 years ago.

And actually, the ironic thing is that they manage to keep the traditions separate and distinct even as they meld themselves together in playing them. It's less like a melting pot than a meal with a bunch of different dishes, each from a different part of the world, but all cooked by the same team of crazy chefs.

Enjoy this, because I don't often post Celtic Ukranian Polka Hoedowns.

A little info on Bertram Levy thanks to Gadaya:
He played mandolin with The Hollow Rock String Band (with Alan Jabbour on fiddle) at the end of the 1960's , recorded a superb solo banjo lp ("That old gut feeling") at the beginnig of the 1980's and became a great concertina player as well. A few years ago he became interested in Tango music and learned the bandoneon. A complete and versatile musician that's for sure..

Peter Ostroushko

Biography by Craig Harris

The musical traditions of the Ukraine are fused with an aural reflection of America's Midwest by mandolin and fiddle player Peter Ostroushko. Best known for his regular appearances on National Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, Ostroushko (pronounced: Oh-STREW-shko) has consistently achieved high standards with his solo recordings and duo albums with Minnesota-based acoustic guitarist Dean Magraw. Equally skillful on fiddle and mandolin, Ostroushko is, according to flatpicking guitar wiz Norman Blake, "the next Jethro Burns and Johnny Gimble rolled into one."

Ostroushko has been playing music most of his life. As the son of Ukrainian immigrants, Wasyl and Katerina Ostroushko, Ostroushko grew up listening to his father, a shoemaker, playing traditional songs of his homeland on guitar and mandolin.

Although he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, in 1974, the first year that the show was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, Ostroushko didn't become a full-time cast member until the show went national in 1980. During the six years in between, Ostroushko worked as a session musician in Nashville. In addition to working on albums by Jethro Burns, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, and Johnny Gimble, Ostroushko played mandolin, though uncredited, on the tune, "If You See Her, Say Hello," from Bob Dylan's album, Blood on the Tracks. Ostroushko also toured with Robin & Linda Williams and Norman & Nancy Blake.

Sluz Duz Music, Ostroushko's debut solo album, was released in 1982. The title referred to Ostroushko's description of his music, based on the Ukrainian words meaning "over the edge" or "off his rocker". Ostroushko's second effort, Down the Streets of My Neighborhood, released in 1986, included a medley of Ukrainian songs and an interpretation of Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'" sung in Ukrainian.

Ostroushko's albums have featured an illustrious list of supportive musicians. The Mando Boys, Ostroushko's third album, released in late 1986, featured a fez-wearing group that began when Ostroushko formed The Lake Woebegone Municipal Mandolin Orchestra for a tour with Garrison Keillor and the cast of A Prairie Home Companion. The same year, Ostroushko recorded First Generation with anglo concertina player Bertram Levy. Ostroushko's next album, Buddies of Swing, released in 1987, was a jazz-tinged collaboration with Jethro Burns (mandolin), Johnny Gimble (fiddle), Butch Thompson (piano), Dean Magraw (guitar), and Prudence Johnson (vocals). After recording a solo album, Blue Mesa, released in 1989, with guest appearances by Norman & Nancy Blake, Daithi Sproule, and Magraw, Ostroushko and Magraw collaborated on an album, Duo, released in 1991. Ostroushko's most successful recording, Heart of the Heartland, released in 1995, was an all-instrumental exploration of the Midwest. In addition to receiving a NAIRD award as "best independently released folk instrumental album," the album was featured on Ken Burns' PBS documentary, Lewis and Clark. The following year, Ostroushko released, Pilgrims on the Heart Road, which he described in the liner notes as "a collection of songs that are a companion piece to Heart of the Heartland." Sacred Heart followed in 2000.

Ostroushko has worked closely with the Children's Theater in Minnesota and the ACT Theater. One of his most ambitious projects was an appearance as lead ukulele player, with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.

2nd Bio:

When they write the book on Peter Ostroushko, they may mention that he loved his family and music and cooking and baseball. But there's no doubt they'll say he was one of the most accomplished instrumentalists and gifted composers of his generation.

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.

The musical road that led Peter to this point has had its share of twists and turns. He was still in high school when his career as a professional musician began. Asked to compose and play the music for a one-man staging of A Christmas Carol, Peter fell in love with theater. Soon he was honing his skills at the Children's Theatre School in Minneapolis.

He began to take up instrument after instrument, finally opting to concentrate on fiddle and mandolin. During the next three decades, he made his mark as a sideman, session player, headliner and composer. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin set on Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. He toured on a regular basis with Robin and Linda Williams, Norman Blake and the Rising Fawn Ensemble, and Chet Atkins. He also worked with the likes of Jethro Burns, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble, Greg Brown, John Hartford and Taj Mahal, among a host of others.

As a solo performer, Peter has produced a number of recordings, including Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood, Slüz Düz Music, and the three albums that make up his Heartland Trilogy: Heart of the Heartland, Pilgrims of the Heartroad and Sacred Heart. His latest is Meeting on Southern Soil, a collaboration with longtime friend Norman Blake.

Peter has spent more than 25 years as a frequent performer on A Prairie Home Companion, and for a few seasons, he did a stint as Music Director for the popular radio show. You may have caught Peter on TV, too. He's appeared on Austin City Limits, Late Night with David Letterman, even Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Peter's talents extend beyond the realm of folk and jazz. Several years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra hired him to play Mahler's Seventh Symphony. The whole piece only has about 15 minutes of mandolin – and that's not until the fourth movement. Peter figures that Mahler must have had a brother-in-law who played mandolin and needed work. You can bet if Mahler had known Peter, he would have written the mando a bigger part.

When the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's season included a mandolin concerto by 18th-century composer Giovanni Paisiello, they called – who else – Peter Ostroushko. And they did the same when they presented Vivaldi's mandolin concerto and his concerto for viola d'amore and mandola. Finally, they decided to perform one of Peter's own compositions, the exquisite Prairie Suite.

Composer Peter Ostroushko has undeniably come into his own. His works have been performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Sinfonia, the Rochester (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra, the Des Moines Symphony and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, among others. Twin Cities Public Television commissioned Peter to provide music for their nationally distributed programs, The Dakota Conflict and Grant Wood's America. Ken Burns used music from Heart of the Heartland for his PBS documentary Lewis & Clarke, and Peter's haunting arrangement of Sweet Betsy from Pike was underscore for Burns' Mark Twain.
And remember the Children's Theatre Company, where a teenage Peter Ostroushko first developed his interest in performance? Decades later, they commissioned their one-time student to write the music for a production of Little Women.

In 2001, Peter was the recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship for Music Composition. And, along the way, he has picked up a N.A.I.R.D. Indie Award, and a couple of Minnesota Music Awards. His music has made its way around the world. Wherever it's heard, there's another bunch of fans eager for more.

Peter, with his wife and daughter, still makes his home in Minneapolis. He continues to compose and perform. He can still whomp up a first-rate batch of borscht. And he still roots for the Twins. Some things never change.

Bertram Levy & Peter Ostroushko - First Generation

Year: 1986
Label: Flying Fish

01 Paddy-rocker
02 Shifting Sands {Klezmer frailach}
03 Swallow's Tail and High Reels {Irish}
04 Hommage a Dorothee {Quebec waltz}
05 Jig Medley: Fiddle Hill/Fair Jenny/Always Able {New England}
06 Reb Dovidls Nign {Klezmer}
07 Ukranian Polka {Ukraine}
08 Medley: Doc Kammerer's {Utah}/Flowers of Edinburh {Revolutionary dance tune}
09 Les Amantes Infideles {Parisian cafe waltz}
10 Southern Sonata: Howdown - Old Molly Hare / Gospel - My Sorrows Encompass Me Round / Moonshine - Boatin' Up Sandy / Hospitality - Rock the Cradle Joe

waltz the frailach jig (new link Jan 19-2012)
vinyl, cleaned, mp3 >256kbps
* out-of-print

and in the spirit of Spirits & Spices, here are some Musical Recipes by Peter

and of course, if you're feeling like being nice to this pirate, he's looking for a few albums:
Peter Ostroushko - Down the Streets of My Old Neighborhood
Peter Ostroushko - Postcards
Peter Ostroushko - Bluegrass (or other albums from Lifescapes, if they're any good)
Peter Ostroushko - Coming Down from Red Lodge
Peter Ostroushko - When the Last Morning Glory Blooms
Peter Ostroushko - Peter Joins the Circus
Peter Ostroushko presents the Mando Boys
The Mando Boys Live - Holstein Lust

thank'ee kindly!!


Gadaya said...

A little info about Bertram Levy. He played mandolin with The Hollow Rock String Band (with Alan Jabbour on fiddle) at the end of the 1960's , recorded a superb solo banjo lp ("That old gut feeling") at the beginnig of the 1980's and became a great concertina player as well. A few years ago he became interested in Tango music and learned the bandoneon. A complete and versatile musician that's for sure..

The Irate Pirate said...

thanks gadaya!

mr_natural said...

Mr. Pirate: I've uploaded the Ostroushko "Minnesota" recording to

Swashbucklingly Yours,

The Irate Pirate said...

yaar! ye be a fine matey, Mr. Natural!

Anonymous said...

This link only leads to the main page of Rapidshare.

Seems like an interesting album, though, thanks for all the info!

Anonymous said...

Finally got it to work, seems like when the rapidpro expired, the main rapidshare site only directed me to the main page. It was fixed when logging out from the page.

SWingB said...

Ooops! The link is kaput! Any chance of a re-up post w/new link please? Thanks in advance!

The Irate Pirate said...

Here's a new link

SWingB said...