University of Iowa News Release
Oct. 21, 2004
Johnson County Landmark Splits Nov. 6 Concert Between Basie, Rapson
The University of Iowa's Johnson County Landmark jazz band will present a concert featuring music from the Count Basie Orchestra on its first half and music by director John Rapson on the second half, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The concert, which is free and open to the public, will feature three faculty soloists -- Anthony Cox, bass; Brent Sandy, trumpet; and James Dreier, drums -- as well as student members of the group.
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.
Five pieces from the Count Basie Orchestra have been scheduled in honor of the 100th anniversary of Basie's birth: "Count 'Em" by Quincy Jones; "Rompin' at the Reno," "Katy Do" and "Vine Street Rumble" by Benny Carter; and "Avenue C" by Buck Clayton.
Another feature of the concert will be pieces that are played in more than one version, giving the audience a glimpse of how different jazz artists can make use of the same material. The concert will open with Billy Strayhorn's "Raincheck," in its original version for the Duke Eliington Orchestra, then the second half will open with Rapson's version of the same piece for JCL.
Rapson noted, "In my arrangement, Billy Strayhorn's tuneful 'Raincheck' is re-clothed in Monkish harmonies and set to dance in a calypso replete with some collective street blowing from Carnival."
Over the course of the program, Chick Webb's theme song, the well known "Stompin' at the Savoy" by Edgar Sampson, will be heard in three versions: Benny Goodman's arrangement for his own orchestra, Bill Holman's arrangement for Stan Kenton, and Rapson's version, again for JCL.
Two of Rapsons' original pieces will close out the program: "Ruth's Idea" and "Saideira em Barao Geraldo."
"'Ruth's Idea' is deliberately lifted from the third movement of Ruth Crawford Seeger's only string quartet," Rapson explained. "In her piece, the first violin is pitted against the other three strings in a palindrome. My version pits the trumpets against the rest of the ensemble over a quasi-West-African groove . . . but the idea was all Ruth's.
"As for the closing piece, the last drink of the night in Brazil is known as 'um saideira' and Barao Geraldo is a neighborhood -- formerly a coffee plantation -- in Campinas where our friend and UI alum Rafael dos Santos now lives. Rafa (dos Santos), the most gracious of men and deft of pianists, was a charter member of the oftENsemble (in Iowa City) back in 1994 before returning home to teach in Brazil. 'Saideira em Barao Geraldo' was written during a tour we did together and he (gently) recommended some rhythmic figures that 'might work better' with the tune."
JCL's current repertory includes the music of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Tadd Dameron, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson and Benny Golson, along with new works by students in the jazz studies area at the UI. In 1998, JCL's performance of Ellington's "Nutcracker" arrangements with choreography by UI dance students was performed to standing-room-only audiences and had to be repeated to meet demand for tickets.
In recent years the group has collaborated with leading jazz artists, including their concerts in 2001 with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow.
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. Among them, these diverse ensembles range from combos to big bands and differs in stylistic formats from experimental compositions to traditional repertoires.
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 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 has completed course work for a doctorate in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.
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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