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Release: July 18, 2000

UI Festival Jazz Ensemble to present free concert July 25

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Festival Jazz Ensemble, a blend of accomplished students at the UI School of Music with seasoned teachers and professional jazz musicians, will present a free concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The ensemble, under the direction of John Rapson from the UI School of Music, is in its first summer season. They performed for the Coralville Rec Center series June 29, and will play for the Lawnchair Concerts in the Park in Iowa Falls July 19.

Members of the group include trombonist David Gier, who is on the faculty of the UI School of Music, and guitarist Steve Grismore, a former UI faculty member who is also a UI graduate and a member of the popular locally based Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz.

Other members of the Alto Maiz band will also be featured: Brent Sandy (trumpet), Bob Thompson (saxophone), Rich Medd (trombone) and Jim Dreier (drums). Area teachers in the group are Medd, from Iowa City West High School; trumpet player Bill Pringle from City High; and pianist Kent Keating from Washington High School.

Another member of the group is saxophonist John Rhodes, a West High graduate who has been studying at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. One member of the group qualifies as a guest artist, trumpet player Ron Cristobal who is a recent graduate of Knox College. Other members of the ensemble are recent graduates or current students in the jazz program of the UI School of Music.

"The repertoire for the concert is a slice of jazz mainstream with ample opportunity for these fabulous soloists to 'open up,'" Rapson said. "You may know the tunes, but wait 'till you hear these guys play them!"

Titles on the planned program include Count Basie's "April in Paris," Thad Jones' "Thee 'n' One" and "Big Dipper," Billy Strayhorn's "Raincheck," Tadd Dameron's "Swift as the Wind" and Charles Mingus' "Ecclusiastics." The ensemble will also perform Rapson's "Legacy of Lyons."

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in 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."

Rapson holds a master's degree in music theory and composition from California State University, Northridge, and a doctorate in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.