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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 27, 2006

Johnson County Landmark Will Spotlight Alumni Composers Nov. 12

The University of Iowa Johnson County Landmark jazz band will spotlight alumni composers and current student soloists when they present a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Johnson County Landmark (JCL) is directed by John Rapson, head of the jazz studies area of the UI School of Music.

Rapson commented: "Each of our jazz concerts this year will feature tributes to stellar alumni. On this program we feature three outstanding composers/arrangers embedded in the context of names that most jazz audiences already recognize."

The concert will open with one of the "names most jazz audiences recognize," Oliver Nelson's "Sound Piece for Jazz Orchestra."

Three alumni composer/arrangers will be featured next: Chris Merz, with his arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Adam's Apple" and his own composition "All Smiles"; Kevin Halstead with his "Sopwith Camel"; and Bret Zvacek with his "Something Personal" and "Nuance."

The performance will also showcase several soloists from JCL. "This year we have some tremendous soloists in JCL," Rapson said, "and we have set aside three numbers as solo features for them to display their wares": Kellmer and Lewis' "Just Friends" with Brian Smith, trumpet; Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" with Bobby Domsic, tenor saxophone; and Louis Bellson's "Skin Deep" with Rob Baner, drums.

Merz is director of jazz studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He has taught at the University of Wyoming, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. He toured four continents with Dave Brubeck and other members of the Brubeck family. He has several compact disc recordings to his credit, including his latest, "Mystery is My Story." For more:

Zvacek is director of jazz studies at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, N.Y. He also taught at the University of North Texas, where he founded the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. He has shared the stage with numerous jazz artists including Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Slide Hampton, Bob Mintzer, The Woody Herman Orchestra and others. He is in demand as a clinician, serving on the staff of numerous summer jazz camps, and has given workshops at several state conferences. For more:

Kevin Halstead was a student at UI in the late 1970s and then transferred to Indiana University, where "Sopwith Camel" was first premiered with Dominic Spera's Big Band. After spending time on the road, he has recently put down roots back in Bloomington, Ind.

A major ensemble in the jazz program, 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 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."

JCL tours throughout the Midwest and makes frequent appearances at clubs in Iowa City. It is one of 11 ensembles in the jazz program of the UI School of Music.

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. For more information on Rapson, see

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at

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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; cell: 319-541-2846;