CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 9, 2001
Innovative jazz artists will be Ida Beam visitors March
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Carla Bley, recognized for more than
30 years as an innovative jazz composer and pianist, and Steve Swallow, her
longtime musical partner who is known as a trailblazing electric bass player,
will be Ida Beam visiting faculty members at the University of Iowa School
of Music March 20-25.
Bley and Swallow will present a series of free public
discussions and demonstrations, culminating in two free concerts:
-- with Johnson County Landmark jazz band at 8 p.m. Friday,
March 23 in Clapp Recital Hall, featuring music from the critically acclaimed
recording "Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church"; and
-- with UI jazz faculty at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24 in
Clapp Recital Hall, featuring music from Swallow's recordings "Deconstructed"
and "Always Pack Your Uniform on Top," along with music from Bley's recent
CD "4x4" and new compositions not yet released in recordings.
Other public events during their visit to the UI campus
-- 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 in Room 1027 of the Voxman
Music Building: "Why Do We Write Like This?" a discussion of their compositional
approaches with David Nelson, director of the UI Division of Performing Arts
and the class "Literature, Science and the Arts," including recordings of
-- 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22 in Voxman Hall of the
Voxman Music Building, an open rehearsal with Johnson County Landmark jazz
-- 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22 at the Sanctuary Restaurant
in downtown Iowa City, an appearance as guests of the UI jazz faculty; and
-- 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24 in Clapp Recital Hall: "Any
Questions?", an open discussion with moderator John Rapson, director of the
UI jazz program, topics to include jazz composers/band leaders, the current
state of jazz and any other questions the audience might have.
An extraordinarily versatile musician, Bley has performed
in a variety of jazz styles and settings. Her written compositions range from
big-band jazz charts to chamber music that straddles the divide between jazz
and contemporary concert music, to solo piano pieces for classical pianist
Ursula Oppens, to the fusion opera "Escalator Over the Hill." Her music has
been performed by pianist Keith Jarrett, vibes virtuoso Gary Burton, bassist
Charlie Haden, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, Pink
Floyd drummer Nick Mason, and countless jazz musicians around the world.
Born in Oakland, Calif., Bley grew up in a conservative
religious environment, playing piano and organ in church from the age of four.
She became interested in jazz as a teenager and eventually moved on to the
jazz scene of 1960s New York. Active with the free-minded Jazz Composers'
Orchestra in the late '60s, Bley founded the boutique record label Watt in
1973 with trumpeter/composer Michael Mantler. Since then she has made more
than 20 recordings on the Watt label, ranging from solo piano and jazz duets
to big band and chamber music, and including the recent CD recording with
the Carla Bley big band, "4 x 4."
Swallow began music studies on piano and trumpet, turning
to the acoustic bass at the age of 14. He says his "otherwise miserable adolescence
was brightened by the discovery of jazz." He studied composition at Yale,
where he also played Dixieland with Pee Wee Russell and other great musicians.
In the 1960s he performed with the Art Farmer Quartet, the Stan Getz Quartet
and Gary Burton, with whom he maintained an association for 20 years.
In 1970 he switched from acoustic to electric bass. In
between a teaching engagement at the Berklee College of Music and a National
Endowment for the Arts grant he performed with Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson,
Herbie Hancock, Bob Moses and others. He joined the Carla Bley Band in 1978
and has since then performed and recorded with Bley extensively, in various
Rapson commented on the unusual careers of Bley and Swallow:
"Carla and Steve have been at the forefront of every new development in this
music since the 1960s. I think that Carla's big band has established itself,
over the last decade, as a trailblazing ensemble with a sense of humor. With
luminaries such as Lew Soloff, Gary Valente and Andy Sheppard now mainstays
in her band, she's developing the type of legacy that one associates with
Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus -- highly idiomatic compositions built around
"Steve has played with everyone, and his small ensembles
get five stars every time they release an album. One of my favorite 'desert-island'
CDs is the trio recording 'Fusion and Thesis' that he made with Paul Bley
and Jimmy Guiffre back in 1961.
"The jazz students and faculty alike, are anticipating
this visit with something that resembles glee."
Rapson said that both students and faculty are excited
at the prospect of performing with such creative musicians. "One of the highlights
will be the material from the album 'Carla Goes to Church,' on the JCL concert
Friday night," he said.
"This album is a kind of symphony in the heritage of Ives
as much as it is jazz. Carla dips into 19th-century hymnody, black gospel
grooves, Handel's 'Messiah,' Copland-esque evocations and contemporary Christian
pop, all in an improvisatory context. Carla is at the top of her form as both
composer and bandleader in this music.
"It is exciting to be making music with someone who has
such a great sense of wit and craftsmanship right at the time it's being created."
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. 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.
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.
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 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 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."
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. He worked with some of the leading
jazz artists on the West Coast, including Bobby Bradford, Vinny Golia, Tim
Berne and Bill Frisell.
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.
He performed extensively on the east coast, including recording sessions with
Anthony Braxton, Doc Cheatham, David Murray and Julius Hemphill.
Bley's and Swallow's activities at the UI are supported
by the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program, which
brings outstanding scholars to the UI campus for residencies ranging from
a few days to an entire academic year. A native of Vinton, Iowa, Beam willed
her farm to the UI in 1977. 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.
Information on Carla Bley and Steve Swallow can be found
at several sites on the world wide web, including <http://www.ejn.it/mus/c_bley.htm>,
<http://www.ejn.it/mus/swallow.htm> and <http://www.tedkurland.com/roster_new/>.
For a sample of Bley's witty approach to her work, go to <http://www.wattxtrawatt.com/>.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.
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