|Billy Novick & Guy Van Duser have been together as a duo for forty years, as some would say, longer than most marriages! They found each other during rehearsals for a dance performance and Novick agreed to play on Van Duser’s debut solo album “Fingerstyle Guitar.” Although executives at the Rounder Record label were dubious of the combination of woodwinds and acoustic guitar, the results were so impressive that Novick and Van Duser agreed to continue pooling their resources. Since then, they have performed in concerts, clubs and festivals all over North America and Europe, have been frequent guests on many popular radio programs, such as “Prairie Home Companion” and “All Things Considered,” and have been featured on numerous film and TV soundtracks.
Fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Guy Van Duser has been heard on National Public Radio for many years as a player of background and theme music. Since the late ’70s, his many collaborations with clarinetist, saxophonist, vocalist, and pennywhistler Billy Novick have endeared him to listeners with old-fashioned tastes, for Van Duser’s primary working repertoire has always consisted of early jazz, swing standards, and Tin Pan Alley pop tunes. The combination of his lifelong respect for Chet Atkins, his early experience as a bluegrass bassist, and his longstanding involvement as a sideman with country musician Bill Staines, all stand as proof of Van Duser’s genre-defying versatility. Van Duser considers himself as primarily a jazz guitarist who prefers and specializes in warm, reassuring pop and jazz melodies from the ’30s.
Billy Novick has had a whirlwind career in music as a performing artist, studio musician, arranger and composer. As a performer, he has impressed audiences throughout North America, Europe and Asia with his soulful, lyrical jazz clarinet and sax. His musical collaboration with guitar wizard Guy Van Duser has resulted in numerous recordings, with frequent appearances on the Prairie Home Companion radio show and a feature-length interview on NPRs All Things Considered. In1986, Novick joined the internationally-acclaimed New Black Eagle Jazz Band, and continues to perform with them. Well-known for his versatility, Novick has performed or recorded with a wide range of artists, including David Bromberg, Leon Redbone, Jay Geils, Dave McKenna, Maxine Sullivan, Milt Hinton, Scott Hamilton, Duke Robillard, Odetta, Herb Pomeroy, Maria Muldaur, Robbie OConnell, Martha and the Vandellas, and many others.
Like all good marriages, Novick & Van Duser’s music have proven to be two musical personalities perfectly suited for each other. Their music is based around Van Duser’s innovative finger-style guitar wizardry, and his uncanny ability to play bass lines, chords and melodies all at the same time. With his daring imagination, breathtaking technique, and wonderful musicality, Van Duser has become an inspiration for guitarists all over the world. Novick’s ever-inventive and soulful clarinet provides the ideal complement to Van Duser’s guitar. With Novick’s vast knowledge of the classic jazz era, his dazzling improvising skills, and his entertaining vocals, he is able to add a melodic and dynamic spark to Van Duser’s guitar. Their music sounds fresh and original, yet is also deeply rooted in the rich legacy of the classic jazz age. The duo can play any piece from their huge repertoire, whether that be an obscure Ellington tune, a Gershwin classic, a complex Jelly Roll Morton arrangement, or perhaps one of their originals, and always have it sound immediately enjoyable. As Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion has proclaimed, they are indeed two elegant gents of the swing music world
Amy Kucharik is a ukulele-slinging singer-songwriter based in Somerville, MA. The 2015 Kerrville Grassy Hill New Folk winner explores the full range of her instrument’s capabilities as a tool to convey a complex array of subjects and moods: Whether humorous, topical or intense, she steers listeners away from the ukulele’s perception as a merely twee novelty instrument. At the same time, Amy wants her audience to have a good time, and her performances are infused with Vaudevillian charm and an infectious, danceable swing. Her music draws from a range of influences including blues, ragtime jazz, folk, pop and country… as well as aesthetics garnered from film and literature. Amy’s catchy, sexy, sometimes haunting songs recount tales of reluctant love, heartbreak, revenge, and grit.
Originally from Southern IL, Amy is the daughter of a trombonist and a pianist/choir director. She grew up playing classical piano and studied french horn from the 6th grade through college, playing frequently in regional honor bands. At Southern Illinois University, Amy studied art and creative writing, ultimately earning her MFA in poetry, meanwhile playing horn in the University Wind Ensemble. However, it was after moving to Boston and through a swing dancing friend that Amy first became interested in the ukulele, the instrument that ignited her songwriting. In 2011, Amy began singing and touring with local artist Greg Klyma, and soon thereafter performing her own shows.
Amy’s band, Friends (With Benefits), features a revolving assortment of talented musicians who perform regularly in New England. Their 2013 EP, “Dance Crush Blues,” was created as a tribute to their mutual love of the swing and blues dance community. The band was selected to perform at Montreal Bagel & Blues 2014 dance exchange and Boston’s Sweet Molasses Blues exchange in 2013 and 2015.
Amy’s full-length debut album, “Cunning Folk,” was released in 2014. It contains 10 of Amy’s originals arranged for a diversely instrumented band featuring luscious vocal harmonies and swirling New Orleans brass. “Cunning Folk” was nominated for Red Line Roots Album of the Year in 2014.
In 2015, Amy was a winner of the Grassy Hill Kerrville Newfolk competition, an honor given to six songwriters selected from a pool of 800 applicants. She toured central Texas with the other five winners, and has been collaborating with several of the Newfolk finalists on future musical endeavors. Amy has also shared bills with Denver, CO-based YouTube ukulele sensation Danielle Ate the Sandwich, as well as Samantha Farrell and Boston Music Award Folk Artist of the Year 2014 Dan Blakeslee. Her song, “Creepy Dead Bug,” co-written with Klyma, was covered by Trout Fishing in America (who NPR call “the Lennon and McCartney of kid’s music”) on their 2013 release, “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.” Amy also performs as a vocalist with the Dan Fox Foxtet swing band, and her own vintage blues band, Tiger Moan.
Amy has taught beginning and intermediate ukulele classes at CCAE as well as various workshop sessions, and is available for private lessons.