CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 1, 1999
Johnson County Landmark premieres new suite by director
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Re-worked standards, classic ballads
and the premiere of a new suite are on the program for Johnson County Landmark,
the top big band in the University of Iowa jazz program, when it presents
a free concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI
The concert features three arrangements by veteran
jazz composer/arranger Bill Holman and closes with the first performance of
the suite "Daydreams from the Prairie," a three-movement work by
director John Rapson.
A major ensemble in the UI School of Music jazz program,
Johnson County Landmark (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
The Nov. 13 program features three arrangements by
Holman, whose career first came to prominence in the '50s with Stan Kenton
and Maynard Ferguson. "Just Friends" comes from "The Bill Holman
Band," an album recorded in 1988. The most unusual trait of the piece
is a long, tour-de-force "solo" performed in unison by the entire
band. "Yesterdays" is a ballad that first appeared in the mid-50s
on a Kenton album titled "Contemporary Concepts." And "The
Peacocks" is a ballad by Jimmy Rowles made famous first by Bill Evans,
a legendary figure of jazz piano.
Other standards on the program will be "Pootin
It," a classic, slow-swing number written by saxophonist Eric
Dixon in the Count Basie tradition; "The First Circle," a composition
by guitarist Pat Metheny and keyboardist Lyle Mays that blends a relaxed,
contemporary sound with dynamic and tricky rhythms; "All of Me,"
an old standard from the 20s that will be played in a modern arrangement
by Thad Jones; and "Black, Brown and Beautiful," a ballad by Oliver
Rapsons "Daydreams from the Prairie"
started as a commission by Augustana College and grew into three movements,
or daydreams: "Tulip Jive Dance," "The Book of Ruth" and
"Aba Kwa Drive."
"Tulip Jive Dance" is a movement that combines
different popular rhythms from the Caribbean in a contrapuntal texture --
that is, one of simultaneous melodies, an uncommon device in jazz writing.
The title is derived by an image of Rapsons teenage daughter Clara,
"The Book of Ruth" has a number of referents:
the biblical story, a book of the same title by Jane Hamilton and an improvising
strategy by the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger. It is an ethereal work that
features JCLs bassist, Wes Phillips.
The final movement, originally the Augustana commission,
is an aggressive vehicle for saxophonist Mike Giles. It blends two rhythmic
traditions -- "aba kwa" and "bembe" -- from Cuba. The
entire work incorporates a large percussion section and requires the saxophone
section to double on other instruments such as flute and clarinet in an expansive
Johnson County Landmark 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
was selected the best band in its class at the 25th annual Wichita Jazz Festival
in 1991, and in 1994 members of the group took top awards in the International
Trumpet Guilds Jazz Competition and the Jazz Composition Competition
sponsored by California State University at San Diego.
The groups 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
Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music
as director of jazz studies in 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 for artistic merit in Grammophone magazines
"Good CD Guide" for jazz recordings, which also called it "beautiful
Previous albums under Rapsons 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.