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University of Iowa News Release

April 7, 2005

Johnson County Landmark Plays Music By Don Ellis April 23

Johnson County Landmark jazz band from the University of Iowa School of Music will feature music from the library of the legendary 1960s and '70s big-band leader Don Ellis as only one part of a multi-faceted concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

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

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 April 23 concert will feature two of the adjunct faculty members from the jazz studies area of the School of Music, guitarist Steve Grismore and clarinetist Robert Paredes.

In addition to music from the Ellis library, the program will include world premieres of two new works by UI graduate student and JCL bassist Israel Neuman from Tel Aviv; Rapson's new arrangement of "Weather or Not," which he originally wrote for the UI faculty jazz group Oftensmble; and "Utvitlingssang," written by Carla Bley during a tour of Norway as a requiem for the animal life that is perishing from industrial pollution in Lapland, and arranged for JCL by Robert Washut from the University of Northern Iowa.

The pieces from the Ellis library, which are scattered through the concert, will be "Indian Lady," "Bulgarian Bulge," "Turkish Bath" and "The Great Divide."

Before his untimely death in 1978 at the age of 44, Ellis was a remarkably creative and innovative jazz musician. In a career of less than 25 years, he distinguished himself as a trumpeter, drummer, composer, arranger, recording artist, author, music critic and music educator. But Ellis is best remembered for his work as a big band leader. His orchestra, which was active from 1966-78, achieved enormous popular appeal at a time when the influence of big band music was noticeably fading.

His significance lies in his use of groundbreaking musical techniques and devices, new to the world of jazz. Ellis's innovations include the use of electronic instruments, electronic sound-altering devices, experiments with quartertones and the infusion of 20th-century compositional devices into the jazz idiom.

Ellis's greatest contributions were in the area of rhythm. His compositions frequently displayed time signatures with uneven numbers of beats: five, seven, 11, 19, 25, and even 33. His rhythmic innovations grew out of studies in non-Western musical cultures, which included graduate work at UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology.

Grismore has been playing the guitar for more than 35 years and has degrees from the Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles in addition to bachelor's and master's degrees from the UI. He has taught classes and clinics throughout Iowa and the Midwest. He was director of jazz studies at the UI 1990-93, and is currently a jazz instructor at Augustana College.

He has performed at clubs in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Omaha and St. Louis, among others, and at jazz festivals across the Midwest. He has performed with nationally recognized jazz artists, including Paul Smoker, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Tatsu Aoki, Charlie Haden, Jack Walrath, Bobby Shew, Vinny Golia, Kim Richmond and the Damon Short Band. On the local scene, he is currently playing with the Steve Grismore Trio, the Oddbar Quartet, Gizmofunk, Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz and the University of Iowa Jazz Faculty Ensemble.

Grismore is a co-founder of the Iowa City Jazz Festival and has been the musical director of the festival for the past 12 years. The Jazz Festival has received national acclaim: It has been recorded four times by National Public Radio for rebroadcast on Branford Marsalis's show "Jazz Set" and was named one of the "10 best" in the Midwest in an 1996 issue of Downbeat Magazine. The festival has also received numerous awards including the "Tourism and the Arts" awards for the state of Iowa and "Best Festival" voted by local newspaper subscribers.

Paredes has earned recognition in a variety of fields -- as a composer, multi-reed performer (clarinet, saxophone and flute), visual artist and essayist. From 1991 to 93, he was visiting assistant professor at the UI, when he directed the electronic music studios and taught composition. Most recently he has taught improvisation and transcription in the jazz studies program, assisted in jazz theory and performed widely with the faculty jazz ensemble.

In his remarkably varied career, Paredes has been a freelance musician in Melbourne Australia; artist in residence at the Festival of Improvised Music/Evos in Perth, Australia; artist in residence at the Universidade Federale in Belo Horizone, Brazil; and composer in residence in Birmingham, Ala., under the auspices of Meet the Composer, the Southern Arts Federation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council of the Arts. He has been composer-adjudicator for the McKnight prize of the Minnesota Composer's Forum

His performances and recording projects range from klezmer to jazz, and from 1980s pop to 20th-century avant-garde music. His essays and text pieces have appeared in Open Space Magazine and Perspectives of New Music. He has exhibited in the art exhibitions "Texas Musicians In Art" and "Composition as Eco-System" and created a number of compositions for acoustic performance, tape and electronic music.

JCL 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 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."

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

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 is a professor of music and has been director of Jazz Studies at the University of Iowa since 1993. He has had previous appointments at Westmont College in California and at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. There are nine recorded albums under his leadership, on a variety of labels, and he has appeared on 17 other albums as a sideman or conductor. Jazz historian Mark Gridley has characterized his music as "extending several trends that were first demonstrated by Charles Mingus and George Russell." He has also prepared material built around the improvisations of drummer Billy Higgins for the album "Water and Blood."

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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