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Jazz Ensemble Features 21st-Century "Soundpainting" May 3

The University of Iowa Jazz Repertory Ensemble will perform music ranging from 1950's Count Basie to the art of "Soundpainting" of the new millennium on their spring concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 3 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The free concert is under the direction of Brent Sandy from the jazz-area faculty in the UI School of Music.

Other artists appearing on the concert will be pianist/composer Evan Mazunik, a graduate assistant in the jazz studies area, conducting/Soundpainting "Spanish Key," from Miles Davis' groundbreaking "Bitches Brew" recording of 1969; composer and horn player Jeffrey Agrell, who will featured soloist for "Spanish Key"; and local musician David Zollo, who will perform four songs made famous by Joe Williams, Ray Charles and Tower of Power.

The concert will include big-band jazz performances of works by Quincy Jones, Thad Jones, John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. Zollo's performances with the band will include Basie's "Everyday I Have The Blues," Johnny Mercer's arrangement of Harold Arlen's "Come Rain or Come Shine" and Tower of Power's "What is Hip."

"Soundpainting" is a system of conducting/composing developed by Walter Thompson for musicians, dancers, poets, actors and visual artists working in the medium of structured improvisation. At present this system includes a vocabulary of gestures made by the conductor/composer indicating the type of improvisation to be made by the performers.

Soundpainting developed as a method of communicating with the musicians during a performance without having to shout above the music. In its early days, the technique was primarily used as a tool for keeping the windows of improvisation close to the style of the notated music. It has now evolved into a system with which an entire concert, dance or theatre work or film score can be realized spontaneously.

Jazz Now columnist Chris Kelsey wrote, "They say Duke Ellington played his orchestra as if it were an instrument. Walter Thompson does the same thing, but in a much more literal fashion. . . He improvises compositions with a big band as he would on a single instrument, with the same intelligence, sensitivity and sense of order."

The Jazz Repertory Ensemble is one of three big bands, and at least 10 combos of varying size, supported by the jazz studies area of the UI School of Music. Based on the standard big-band instrumentation, it has full sections of reed, brass and rhythm instruments. Made up largely of students in the UI School of Music, the Jazz Repertory Ensemble performs works by established jazz masters as well as new works by UI students and other jazz composers.

Recognized as a talented musician at a very young age, Zollo began playing the piano at age four. He played and learned from an earlier generation of eastern-Iowa musicians, working with singer/songwriter Greg Brown and guitarist/producer Bo Ramsey. Zollo founded his own group, the quintet High and Lonesome, in the early '90s. The band traveled across the Midwest and released three albums in addition to Zollo's first solo endeavor on his own label, Trailer Records, based in Iowa City.

Zollo founded Trailer Records in 1994, and it has now produced more than 25 titles, including albums by Ramsey, Brown, Joe Price and other eastern-Iowa musicians.

Agrell joined the UI School of Music faculty in 2000 after a 25-year career as symphony musician. At the UI he teaches horn, directs the Horn Choir, coaches chamber music and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet. Before coming to Iowa, he was associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra 1975-2000, playing symphonic music, opera, operetta, ballet, musicals choral music and chamber music.

Agrell began composing and arranging during his college years and played jazz guitar and electronic music in the 1980s. For the past decade he has had a steady stream of commissions from professional chamber music ensembles. His works have appeared on CD and have been broadcast on radio and television nationally and internationally.

At the 2001 Workshop of the International Horn Society in Kalamazoo he gave a clinic on non-jazz improvisation and performed his "Night Sonata" for horn, piano, bass and percussion, which is revolutionary in its integration of written and non-jazz improvised material. Another recent piece in this style, "September Elegy" for natural horn and piano, was performed at the Infinite Respect Conference at the UI in January 2002, and was a winner in the "Beyond 9/11: Arts in Iowa" project.

Mazunik fuses multiple musical roles as a pianist, improviser, composer and conductor. He has performed with Carla Bley, Bob Mintzer, Bobby Shew and Steve Swallow, and scored "The Checker King," a documentary to air on Cinemax. He conducts Gamut, his own Soundpainting ensemble, which recently recorded an album to be released later this year. Mazunik has been a member of the Walter Thompson Orchestra since 2002 and is currently pursuing a masters degree in jazz studies at the UI.

Sandy, who joined the jazz faculty in 2000, is a jazz trumpet and flugelhorn performer, teacher and clinician. Sandy performs regularly with local jazz groups including the OddBar Trio and Equilateral. As a member of Oddbar and a former member of the Orquesta Alto Maiz, he has made seven CDs, toured Europe in 1998 and twice been featured on "Jazzset with Branford Marsalis" on National Public Radio. He is an educational specialist/clinician and Conn Vintage One artist with CG Conn and has served on the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Jazz Festival.

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/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <ur-acr@uiowa.edu>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, peter-alexander@uiowa.edu.