CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Aug. 31, 2001
UI Johnson County Landmark jazz band releases CD recording of music by
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Johnson County Landmark (JCL), the jazz repertory big
band at the University of Iowa School of Music, has issued "Daydreams
from the Prairie," a compact disc recording of music by John Rapson,
the group's director and head of the UI jazz program.
The CD, the third by JCL under Rapson's direction, was issued on the Nine
Winds label and is available for purchase or on order from local record and
music stores. It is the band's first release on a major commercial record
label. The previous CDs -- "A Mingus Among Us" and "Been There,
Done That" -- were self-produced.
Rapson and JCL have received critical acclaim for their earlier recordings.
"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's experimental jazz recording "Dances and Orations" was
hailed as "one of the most vital CDs to come around in a long time"
in Jazziz magazine 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."
"Daydreams from the Prairie" includes more than an hour of Rapson's
music. The title piece is a suite in three parts, "Tulip Jive Dance,"
"Book of Ruth" and "Aba Kwa Drive." Other works on the
CD are "Riff Bass Bridge Head," "Virile," "Paradox"
In spite of the evocative titles, Rapson has made it clear that his pieces
are not written to be descriptive. "All of my compositions are written
before a title suggests itself to me," he wrote in the liner notes.
"None of these pieces should be conceived as 'program' music. The music
either evokes a similarity, or I choose to honor someone with something that
I think they may like. In some cases I am able to recognize the influence
that led to my thinking and I've tried to note those where I can."
The liner notes specify some of those influences, including McCoy Tyner
for "Virile" and Wayne Shorter for "Paradox." The three-movement
title piece was written from a commission by Augustana College in Rock Island,
Ill. The original work grew into the longer piece that was premiered by JCL
in the fall of 1999.
"'Tulip Jive Dance' was written with my 16-year-old daughter in mind,
dancing as it does, between innocence and deliberation.
"'The Book of Ruth' has a number of references: a book by Jane Hamilton
as well as the one in the Bible, but also in honor of Ruth Crawford Seeger,
an unwitting compositional mentor for me. It reminds me of an obscure Benny
Maupin record 'Jewel in the Lotus' that must have snuck its way into my psyche.
"'Aba Kwa Drive' refers to a rhythm from a secret men's society in
Cuba that is modified and employed in the last section of this movement. Some
of the orchestrational ideas came from the Pan African Composers Ensemble
that I heard on a Nonesuch album."
A major ensemble in the UI School of Music, 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 1998, JCL's performance of Ellington's "Nutcracker" arrangements
with dance students was performed to standing-room-only audiences and had
to be repeated to meet demand for tickets. The group has collaborated with
leading jazz artists, including their concert last year with Carla Bley and
The ensemble 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. In 1991 JCL was selected the best band in its
class at the 25th annual Wichita Jazz Festival. In 1994, members of the group
took top awards in the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Competition and
the Jazz Composition Competition sponsored by California State University
at San Diego.
Pianist Alex Lunsqui, who appears on the "Daydreams from the Prairie"
CD, was selected outstanding artist at the Wichita Jazz Festival in the Spring
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 professional career began in Los Angeles, where he formed an octet and
performed with some of the leading jazz artists for both recording dates and
live performances. While he continued to record and perform on the jazz circuit,
Rapson also taught music theory and composition at Westmont College in Santa
Barbara for 10 years. He later taught jazz at Wesleyan University in Connecticut
and performed extensively on the east coast.
"Daydreams for the Prairie" was recorded in May of 2000 in Voxman
Hall of the UI Voxman Music Building and mixed at the UI Recording Studio.
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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