CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
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Iowa City IA 52242
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Release:June 10, 2002
UI music faculty member John Rapson wins composition award
Rapson, head of the jazz area of the University of Iowa School of Music, has
won first prize in the large ensembles division of the 2001 Jazz Composers
Alliance/Julius Hemphill Composition Awards.
Rapson won for his composition Riff Bass Bridge Head, which he
has recorded with the UI jazz ensemble Johnson County Landmark on their recent
CD Daydreams from the Prairie. The prize includes a cash award
and performance of the work in the upcoming 2002-03 season of the Jazz Composers
Rapson commented: I am delighted to be recognized by my peers, especially
in the spirit of Julius Hemphill, who is still a hero for me. We had the chance
to play together once at the Knitting Factory in New York in 1992 and he was
larger than life -- both in stature and spirit.
Now in its 10th year, the Jazz Composers Alliance/Julius Hemphill Composition
Awards this year received entries from all over the United States and the
world, from as far a Russia and China. Music was sent from 26 states and 13
In a release announcing the awards, the Jazz Composers Alliance stated, We
are excited and pleased to be able to honor the winning compositions; all
were outstanding, inventive works. Judging this music has become more difficult
each year. The quality of submissions has been very high, and it's difficult
to compare as they represent such a range of approaches, styles, forms and
intentions: each year, this event becomes more diverse and competitive.
Rapson has written of his winning piece: Riff Bass Bridge Head
was first conceived for an octet that I lead in California. At the time, I
was quite taken (and amused) by an unwieldy version of Maple Leaf Rag
recorded by Anthony Braxton on contrabass clarinet and Muhal Richard Abrahms
on piano. It was earnest and cumbersome, enthusiastic and probing, always
on the brink of coming apart. So I tried to come up with something that bridged
the traditional with the experimental while favoring the lower reaches and
employing collective improvisation . . . something that courted danger, that
nearly careened into chaos, that narrowly averted disaster.
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 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 magazines Good
CD Guide for jazz recordings, which also called it beautiful and
Saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill was a founding member of the Black
Artists Group in 1968. He was also a founding member of the World Saxophone
Quartet in 1975 and played with the group until his death in 1995. He lead
other ensembles under his own name, including a sextet and the Harlem Festival
Orchestra, and collaborated with choreographer Bill T. Jones on Last
Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin, a portion of which was commissioned by
Hancher Auditorium, and which was played at the UI on its tour of the United
The Jazz Composers Alliance is funded in part by The Massachusetts Cultural
Council, a state agency which also receives support from the National Endowment
for the Arts; by Mark Of The Unicorn, Inc., and Accurate Records. The annual
composition contest has been underwritten since 1997 by Ursula Oppens, a classical
pianist who has championed new music, as a memorial to Hemphills legacy
as a composer, teacher and performer.
The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
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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