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Release: March 19, 1999

Johnson County Landmark includes Ellington tribute in free concert March 29

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Johnson County Landmark (JCL), the jazz repertory big band at the University of Iowa School of Music, will pay tribute to a great American composer, welcome back an alumnus, and feature the work of a Los Angeles studio composer, all in one concert at 8 p.m. Monday, March 29 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The performance, under the direction of John Rapson, will be free and open to the public.

The tribute will be to Duke Ellington, considered by many to be America's greatest composer, whose 100th birthday will be exactly one month after the concert, on April 29.
The alumnus will be drummer Eric Thompson, who played in JCL in 1993-94 and now has his own quartet in the Boston, Mass., area. Thompson and his quartet will perform separately in the Iowa City area, with appearances at the Sanctuary Restaurant in Iowa City on Friday and Saturday,

March 26 and 27, and a free clinic on jazz performance at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 29 in the Opera Rehearsal Room of the UI Voxman Music Building.
And the featured studio composer will be Kim Richmond, whose "Passages" was premiered by JCL and Thompson in 1993. A reprise of "Passages," performed by the current JCL personnel with Thompson on drums, will be the centerpiece of the concert.

The program will open and close with references -- both direct and indirect -- to Ellington's influence. As one of the greatest jazz composers, Ellington has consistently been a major part of JCL's repertory. Last December the band performed for a choreographed version of Ellington's "Nutcracker" to a standing-room-only audience in Clapp Recital Hall, then had to repeat the performance to a second full house a few days later.

The March 20 concert will open with two of the signature tunes of Ellington's band: probably the most famous single piece from the Duke's repertoire, Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train," and Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone." They will be followed by Strayhorn's "Isfahan," a striking ballad from the Ellington/Strayhorn "Far East Suite" that was made famous by the sax solos of the legendary Johnny Hodges in the original recording.

The final two works on the program will acknowledge Ellington's influence in another way: "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" by Charles Mingus, who loved Ellington's music and became famous as a jazz bass player; and "Mingus" by bassist Chuck Israel, which traces the line of influence and veneration into another generation.

Drummer Eric Thompson joined JCL in 1993 at the same time that Rapson became director of jazz studies at the UI School of Music. He played with the group for two years and was the drummer on JCL's first CD recording, "Been There, Done That." He has been living in Boston for the past three years, attending the Thelonious Monk Institute at the New England Conservatory and working with prominent east-coast jazz artists.

Thompson's quartet is currently touring the Midwest. They will appear with Thompson on the JCL concert, playing an original composition, "Starsky and Hutch," and return for a surprise finale with JCL.

Richmond was recently in Iowa City with trumpeter Clay Jenkins to present clinics for university and high school students. They both performed with JCL at the Southeastern Iowa Bandmasters annual jazz festival, held at Iowa City West High. Richmond's music has been played by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the Bob Florence Big Band, the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and the Jim Widmer Big Band, in addition to his own 21-piece orchestra.

A major ensemble in the UI School of Music jazz program, 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.
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. The CD scored 10 out of 10 in for artistic merit Gramophone magazine's "Good CD Guide" for jazz recordings, which also called it "beautiful and unique."

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.

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