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Release: Immediate

Johnson County Landmark and guest Walter Thompson will perform March 30

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa big band jazz ensemble Johnson County Landmark will perform at 8 p.m. Monday, March 30 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus. The featured guest soloist will be saxophonist Walter Thompson of New York City.

The concert, directed by the head of jazz studies program, John Rapson, will be free and open to the public.

Each semester Johnson County Landmark (JCL) highlights the work of a different composer or band leader. This semester the ensemble is focusing on Thad Jones, who co-led the Vanguard Orchestra with Mel Lewis. The March 30 concert will feature four compositions by Jones: "Don't Git Sassy," described as an irresistible and earthy blues shuffle; "Groove Merchant," mid-tempo swing; "Quietude," a lyrical flugelhorn melody; and "Greetings and Salutations," a '70s jazz-funk composition.

The ensemble also will perform compositions by Duke Ellington, Ray Santos, Quincy Jones and Tom Kubis, among others.

Thompson is a special guest of the jazz department at UI, where he will give several performances and speak with students. He is founder and composer for the Walter Thompson Orchestra and Ensemble, both based in New York City.

For the past 25 years he has been composing professionally, performing and conducting his own compositions in the United States and Europe. In addition to leading his large ensemble and orchestra, which Jon Pareles of the New York Times describe as pushing "big band music in a new direction," Thompson has developed a unique conducting language called "Sound Painting." The technique was developed for musicians, dancers, actors and artists working in the medium of improvisation.

Thompson's music-education background includes a teaching position at the UI, as well as positions at the New School for Social Research in New York City, the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Michigan. Recordings under his own name include "The Colonel," "Not for Rollo" and "520 Out."

A major ensemble in the UI School of Music, JCL is a repertory ensemble devoted to the performance of original compositions by jazz masters. JCL has the standard big-band instrumentation, with full sections of reed, brass and rhythm instruments. It is made up largely of students in the UI School of Music majoring in performance or in the jazz area.

JCL's current repertory includes the music of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Tadd Dameron, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson and Benny Golson, along with new works by students in the jazz studies area at the UI.

The ensemble has been performing at the UI since the 1960s. The group has traveled to jazz festivals in the United States and Europe, picking up awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

The group's most recent recording, "A Mingus Among Us," was described as "over 70 minutes of sweet, sophisticated jazz classics" in ICON magazine, and River Cities Reader commented that "JCL, the top big band for the University of Iowa School of Music, captures the power of Mingus' music wonderfully."

JCL tours throughout the Midwest. In addition to its free concerts on the UI campus, JCL makes frequent appearances at clubs in Iowa City. It is one of 11 ensembles in the jazz program of the UI School of Music. Among them, these diverse ensembles range from combos to big bands and differs in stylistic formats from experimental compositions to traditional repertoires.

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in August 1993. A recording artist for the Sound Aspects and Nine Winds labels, he is a composer and trombonist whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. His recent experimental jazz recording "Dances and Orations" has been hailed as "one of the most vital CDs to come around in a long time" in Jazziz and as "a conceptual and musical triumph" by Josef Woodard in the Independent.

Previous albums under Rapson's direction are "Bing" for Sound Aspects, and "Buwah" and "Deeba dah bwee" for Nine Winds. He has also recorded "A Mingus Among Us" and "Been There, Done That" with Johnson County Landmark.