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Release: Oct. 19, 2001

UI Johnson County Landmark jazz band will perform music by Steve Swallow Nov. 3

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Johnson County Landmark, the top jazz big band at the University of Iowa School of Music, will present a concert featuring the music of trailblazing electric bass player Steve Swallow at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public. Johnson Country Landmark (JCL) is directed by John Rapson, head of the jazz studies area in the School of Music. Featured soloist on the concert will be trumpeter Brent Sandy, an adjunct faculty member at the School of Music.

JCL will perform eight big-band compositions by Swallow that were commissioned by Harvard University and that have been performed only at one other time. Swallow and his longstanding musical partner, jazz composer/pianist Carla Bley, have visited the UI twice in the past year for projects with JCL and the Iowa City Jazz Festival. As a result of those visits, Swallow has asked JCL to make a CD recording of these works with faculty soloists later in the year.

Rapson commented, "Steve's music is very tricky and great fun to play. He keeps you on your toes by referencing many conventions that have mischievous little twists and turns you might miss if you don't keep your wits about you. Every tune uses a different structure and rhythmic scheme."

For example, Rapson explained, one of the eight pieces, "Portsmith Figurations," is a modal work that includes five-bar phrases. "Slender Thread" and "Belles" are derived from Brazilian bossa nova and samba. Other pieces include a tongue-in-cheek reference to a tango-influenced rock number, a slowly-developing chorale and a lilting melody built on a 6/4 swaying rhythm.

Bookends on this program will be two classic repertory works: "Groovin' High," a bebop anthem from Dizzy Gillespie's late 1940s big band, and "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," a concert stopper from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival that revived the career of Duke Ellington and is captured on one of his most famous recordings.

Swallow began music studies on piano and trumpet, turning to the acoustic bass at the age of 14. He says his "otherwise miserable adolescence was brightened by the discovery of jazz." He studied composition at Yale, where he also played Dixieland with Pee Wee Russell and other great musicians. In the 1960s he performed with the Art Farmer Quartet, the Stan Getz Quartet and Gary Burton, with whom he maintained an association for 20 years.

In 1970 he switched from acoustic to electric bass. In between a teaching engagement at the Berklee College of Music and a National Endowment for the Arts grant he performed with Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Bob Moses and others. He joined the Carla Bley Band in 1978 and has since then performed and recorded with Bley extensively, in various contexts.

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 area.

JCL's current repertoire includes standards from the big band tradition along with unpublished new works by current members. In recent years the group has collaborated with leading jazz artists, including their concerts in 2001 with Bley and Swallow. The group's CD 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." They recently released a new album of original pieces by Rapson entitled "Daydreams from the Prairie" on Nine Winds.

Sandy, who joined the jazz faculty in 2000, is a jazz trumpet and flugelhorn performer, teacher and clinician. After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa, he traveled nationally with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and other bands. He has performed and recorded with groups ranging from Latin bands to small combos and with a wide variety of jazz artists.

Sandy performs regularly with local jazz groups including the Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz, the OddBar Trio, Chris Merz and the Xtet and Nine Easy Pieces. He is an educational specialist/clinician with Conn Musical Instruments, a division of United Musical Instruments, USA, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Jazz Festival.

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in August 1993. He is a recording artist for the Sound Aspects and Nine Winds labels whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. His professional career began in Los Angeles, and he has since performed with a number of leading jazz artists on both coasts. Rapson previously taught at Westmont College in Santa Barbara and later at Wesleyan University in Connecticut before coming to Iowa City.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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