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University of Iowa News Release

April 16, 2004

'Hero Of Jazz Trumpet Playing' Kenny Wheeler Is Guest Of UI April 28-May 2

Kenny Wheeler, a versatile jazz artist praised in Rolling Stone magazine for his "mellow-toned trumpet," will visit the University of Iowa as an Ida Beam distinguished visiting professor, appearing in free public concerts with the UI jazz faculty and guests at 5 p.m. Friday, April 30 in the University of Iowa Museum of Art and with the UI Johnson County Landmark jazz band at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 1 in Clapp Recital Hall.

In addition to these two concerts, Wheeler will make two other appearances at the UI that will be open to the public free of charge:
-- at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, he will present a guest lecture in a jazz history class in Macbride Hall Auditorium; and
-- at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 29, he will give a lecture/presentation to UI trumpet students in Harper Hall of the Voxman Music Building.

The Friday concert will be broadcast on UI radio station KSUI, 91.7 FM (101.7 FM in Dubuque) as a special "Know the Score LIVE!" event. The program, part of the weekly arts and humanities series hosted by Joan Kjaer on KSUI, will take place before a live audience in the Lasansky Gallery and the Nancy and Craig Willis Atrium of the Museum of Art.

The concert will be broadcast live over KSUI as well as 3-5 p.m. Sunday, May 2, and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 5. Listen on the Internet at

Performing with Wheeler will be guest artists Chris Merz, saxophone, and Robert Washut, piano, from the University of Northern Iowa; and UI faculty members John Rapson, head of the jazz area, trombone; Brent Sandy, trumpet; Robert Paredes, clarinet; Steve Grismore, guitar; Anthony Cox, bass; and James Dreier, drums.

The Saturday evening concert will feature a program of Wheeler's music, performed by Johnson County Landmark (JCL), the top big band in the UI School of Music. JCL is directed by Rapson.

The first half of the program will be devoted a single extended work for big band, Wheeler's "Sweet Time Suite." This large-scale work was described by the New Grove Dictionary of Music as "Wheeler's most ambitious composition . . . exemplifying some of the central ideals of modern big-band jazz: strong soloists, gorgeous ensemble writing and a compelling sense of swing."

Several shorter pieces will be featured on the second half of the program: "Gentle Piece," "Foxy Trot," "Sea Lady" and "W.W."

Rapson is excited to host a visit by Wheeler, whom he considers among his jazz "heroes." "Wheeler has been recording for more than 50 years in such a variety of stylistic formats -- and always at the highest level -- that his name is almost whispered when mentioned amongst jazz musicians," he said.

"I have great enthusiasm for his visit, as anyone would that gets a chance to welcome his hero to town; and a healthy dose of circumspection, as anyone would who must rise to the challenge of playing his compositions and performing alongside him.

"In truth, I am like a little kid who just can't wait. It is a wonderful opportunity, not only for the faculty and students, but also for the community to hear one of the great heroes of jazz trumpet playing. His compositions are known throughout the profession as the quintessence of lyrical melodies and lush harmonies."

Wheeler has performed on more than 250 recordings dating from the late 1950s and is recognized as a distinctive arranger and composer of jazz. In addition to his professional artistic activities, he has been a member of the prestigious summer faculty at the Banff Centre in Canada since 1983.

Although resident in England since 1952 and often thought to be an English musician, Wheeler was born in Canada. He began playing in his hometown of St. Catherines, encouraged by his father, a trombonist. He moved to London after formal studies in harmony, composition and trumpet at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. After his arrival in London, he balanced commercial dance band work with work that embraced other forms of jazz, from bebop to free jazz.

From those very early days until the present, Wheeler's career has included work in both the mainstream and experimental channels of jazz performance and composition. He has collaborated with luminaries in the field from both Europe and North America, and his recordings, such as "Angel Song" from 1999, have been chosen as "album of the year" by many publications. He has a distinctive compositional voice as well as a formidable improvisational technique that champions both lyricism and experimentation. In an on-line review, Jason Bivins wrote, "There is little in jazz music more instantly recognizable than the sweetly fractured sound of a Kenny Wheeler performance."

His credits include projects with Lee Konitz, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, John Taylor and Bill Frisell as well as Joe Harriott, Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxtron. "It is rare for an individual artist to be equally recognized as a performer and composer, let alone by such a diverse range of stylistic communities," Rapson commented.

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.

In recent years the group has collaborated with leading jazz artists, including their concerts in 2001 with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow.

The group's 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."

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 most recent album was listed in downbeat magazine among "The Best of 2003." His 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.

A native of Vinton, Iowa, Beam willed her farm to the UI in 1977. Her only university connection was a relative who graduated from the College of Medicine. Proceeds from the sale of the farm were used to establish the visiting professorships program in her name. Since 1977, hundreds of eminent scholars and scientists have visited the UI campus to give public lectures and to meet with students and faculty.

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

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

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