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Release: Nov. 27, 2002

(Photo: John Rapson will conduct Johnson County Landmark for a concert of holiday music, shared with the Jazz Repertory Ensemble, at 3 p.m.and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.)

UI Jazz Bands Present holiday concerts 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 14

Johnson County Landmark and the Jazz Repertory Ensemble -- two of the student performing groups in the jazz program of the University of Iowa School of Music -- will present concerts of holiday music at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Johnson County Landmark (JCL) is directed by John Rapson, head of jazz studies in the School of Music. The Jazz Repertory Ensemble (JRE) is directed by Brent Sandy from the UI jazz faculty. Both groups are student ensembles that feature the standard big-band instrumentation, with full sections of reed, brass and rhythm instruments. Several UI faculty will be featured as soloists on the concerts.

Part of the Target Fall Community Concert Series presented by the UI Arts Share program and supported by a grant from Target Stores, Inc., the afternoon concert will feature a short program -- about 60 minutes -- aimed at a younger audience. The evening concert will feature the same program, filled out to full concert length of approximately 90 minutes.

The afternoon concert is presented free of charge, with a $1 suggested donation for adults to support the Community Concert Series. The evening concert will be free.

The mainstay of both performances will be a jazz arrangement of nine pieces from Tchaikovsky's popular "Nutcracker" Suite, written by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Jazz arrangements of other holiday favorites on the program will include "Greensleeves," arranged by Oliver Nelson and featuring Rapson on trombone; "Little Drummer Boy" arranged by Bob Washut and featuring UI jazz faculty members Steve Grismore, guitar, and Jim Dreier, drums; and an arrangement of "Jingle Bells" by UI doctoral student Bryan Hardester, replete with humorous quotes and a sing-along section.

The musical program will be embellished with video and slide projections, and holiday stories with improvised music as background.

The added material for the evening concert will include a traditional Jewish tune arranged by UI undergraduate Julie Nichols, the pianist with the JRE, with jazz faculty member Bob Paredes on the clarinet.

"There's a lot of great jazz on Christmas songs and other music from the holidays that we want to share with our audiences," Rapson said. "Ellington's 'Nutcracker' arrangements are a real classic, but just about every other jazz artist has done these tunes at one time or another, so there's a lot to choose from. And with such familiar songs, it makes a great jazz concert for families."

In 1998 JCL performed Ellington's "Nutcracker" with dancers from the UI Dance Department. The event was so popular that people had to be turned away from the first performance, and additional performances were scheduled to meet the demand.

Created in 1962, Ellington's version of the familiar Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker" Suite was his first complete record album devoted to arrangements of another composer's music. This unexpected development confused critics of the time, who didn't know how to categorize the album: Was it jazz? Was it third-stream -- a synthesis of classical and jazz? Or was it just a put-on?

As shown by subsequent works -- the re-interpreted Grieg of "Peer Gynt" Suite, the "Far East Suite," and other multi-part works that followed -- the "Nutcracker" arrangements signaled an important development in Ellington's career. Recently the suites and other later works have been successfully revived by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the "Nutcracker" Suite was used by choreographer Donald Byrd for his "Harlem Nutcracker."

Ellington's Suite has nine movements, based on many of the popular pieces from Tchaikovsky's score. Re-named with jazzy titles, they include "Toot Toot Tootie Toot" ("Dance of the Reed Pipes" in the original), "Sugar Rum Cherry" ("Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"), "Dance of the Floreadores" ("Waltz of the Flowers") and "Arabesque Cookie" ("Arabian Dance").

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 for artistic merit in Grammophone 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.

Sandy, who joined the jazz faculty in 2000, is a jazz trumpet and flugelhorn performer, teacher and clinician. Sandy performs regularly with local jazz groups including the Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz, the OddBar Trio and Equilateral. As a member of the Orquesta Alto Maiz and OddBar he has made seven CDs, toured Europe in 1998 and twice been featured on "Jazzset with Branford Marsalis" on National Public Radio. He is an educational specialist/clinician and Conn Vintage One artist with United Musical Instruments, a division of United Musical Instruments, USA, and serves on the board of directors of the Iowa City Jazz Festival.

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

A program of the UI Division of Performing Arts, Arts Share provides artistic resources from the Iowa Center for the Arts to schools, local art councils, community arts associations, museums, senior citizen centers and other organizations throughout Iowa and the surrounding region. The Arts Share roster includes nearly 100 faculty and graduate students in music, theater, dance, the visual arts and creative writing.

For more information about the Target Fall Community Concert Series or Arts Share, contact Diane Kenney Handler at 335-1618 or, or access the Arts Share website at

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