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Release: June 9, 1999

Jazz pianist Dan Knight releases CD of music inspired by paintings at UI Museum of Art

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa City Jazz pianist Dan Knight has recently recorded and released a CD of music inspired by nine paintings in the permanent collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

The CD, titled "Pictures at an Exhibition" after a famous classical piece by Russian composer Modest Musorgsky, features nine pieces by Knight, one inspired by each of the paintings. Five of the paintings are also reproduced in a set of note cards that is available at the Museum.

Knight was first inspired by paintings in the museum's collection several years ago. While working as a clerk-typist at UI Hospitals and Clinics, he used to spend his lunch hour in the museum.

"I would just sit in front of the paintings as long as I could," Knight said. "I knew exactly how long it would take to get back to work, and I used every minute I could to refresh my spirit.

"I heard music the first time I saw some of the paintings, including Feininger's 'In a Village Near Paris' and 'Blue Interior with Two Girls' by Matisse. I would sit in the museum and listen to the music that I heard in my head, and then I wrote it all down after I got home."

Knight played the first pieces he had written in response to the museum’s artworks when he was invited to play at the monthly Music in the Museum program in February 1997. Liking what she heard, Emily Vermillion, the museum's curator of education, raised the idea of a CD of the music inspired by the museum's collection. She also made it a point to invite Knight back to open the Music in the Museum series for the fall of 1998. Knight added a few more works to the set for that performance, played before a large audience in the museum's Elliott Gallery. Surrounded by several of the paintings that had inspired him, Knight talked about the origin of his pieces.

The success of that performance led Pamela Trimpe, the museum's assistant director, to contact Knight in November and ask him to play for the Friends of the UI Museum of Art in April of this year. For that occasion he completed the series, adding pieces based on paintings in the museum's brand new series of note cards.

The CD of the finished suite, produced with the assistance of Jo Jones and Trimpe of the Museum of Art, was recorded in March at Clapp Recital Hall and has been released on the After Hours Recordings label.

The nine pieces in the finished suite, and the paintings that inspired them, are:

--"E", from "E" by Marsden Hartley (1915);

--"Edge," from "Edge" by Philip Guston (1960);

--"Under the Paris Sky," from "In a Village Near Paris" by Lyonel Feininger (1909);

--"Blue Interior," from "Blue Interior with Two Girls" by Henri Matisse (1947);

--"Portrait of H.M." from "Portrait of H.M." by Jackson Pollock (1945);

--"Rosalie," from "A Drop of Dew Falling from the Wing of a Bird Awakens Rosalie Asleep in the Shade of a Cobweb" by Joan Miro (1939);

--"New York -- Paris, No. 1" from "New York -- Paris, No. 1" by Stuart Davis (1931);

--"Autumn," from "Le Automne" by Achille Emile Othon Friesz (1907); and

--"A Travers Les Arbes," from "A Travers Les Arbes" ("Through the trees") by Maurice de Vlaminck (c. 1910).

The set of 15 note cards, 5 x 7 inches in size, contains images of the paintings by Stuart Davis, Lyonel Feininger, Philip Guston, Marsden Hartley and Jackson Pollock.

Knight, a Steinway Artist, teaches jazz piano at Grinnell College. Claude Nobs, founder and artistic director of the Montreux (Switzerland) Jazz Festival, said "Knight is incontestably one of the finest solo pianists in the world. (He) is quietly establishing a place for himself among the masters of jazz piano."

Knight's other recordings for After Hours Recordings include "Dan Knight and the La Fosse Jazz Trio: Live from Studio III," recorded with UI violin faculty member Leopold La Fosse; "Dan Knight: Montreux"; and "Dan Knight: Do You Hear What I Hear." Recordings to be released soon are "Dan Knight Duo: Live at Riverside Theatre" and "Dan Knight Quartet: Live at the Cottonwood Club."

The Museum of Art has Knight's CD "Pictures at an Exhibition" on sale for $15 and the museum note card set for $13. Both the CD and note cards will be on sale at other locations in eastern Iowa. The CD will also be available through Dan Knight's web page, at

For information on the UI Museum of Art, visit on the World Wide Web.