FRIDAY, JUNE 30
5 p.m. United Jazz Ensemble
Every May, this collaborative high school ensemble comes together to prepare for the Iowa City Jazz Festival. Directed by Rich Medd and Ryan Arp, the band is composed of students from Iowa City High School and West High School in Iowa City. For 20 years, this group has served as of one of the signature elements of the Jazz Festival’s commitment to education outreach. The deep immersion of students in jazz over the summer not only strengthens their musical growth, but builds a strong bond between the programs at the two schools.
7 p.m. Rhythm Future Quartet
This acoustic jazz ensemble has a straightforward agenda: to keep the spirit of Gypsy jazz alive and expanding in today’s musical universe. The virtuosic foursome, named for a Django Reinhardt tune, offers up a newly minted sound, influenced by the classic Hot Club of France, yet wholly contemporary. Led by violinist Jason Anick and guitarist Olli Soikkeli, the quartet performs dynamic and lyrical arrangements of both Gypsy jazz standards and original compositions that draw upon diverse international rhythms and musical idioms. With Max O’Rourke on second guitar and Greg Loughman on bass, Rhythm Future is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of a vital musical genre.
Jason Anick, an award-winning composer is one of the youngest professors at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston. Olli Soikkeli (dubbed “the Finnish boy wonder”) recently made the move from Scandinavia to New York City, where he quickly became a top call guitarist in the bustling Brooklyn jazz scene. Max O’Rourke was the winner of the 2015 Saga Award from DjangoFest Northwest, and at 19 has already toured/recorded with many of the top American Gypsy Jazz musicians. Greg Loughman is a top call bassist in Boston and has been heard with such luminaries as Sheila Jordan, Curtis Fuller and George Garzone.
9 p.m. In Orbit with Jeff Coffin & Michael Occhipinti & Felix Pastorius
In Orbit brings together musicians from both sides of the Canada-USA border, centered on the original compositions of saxophonist Jeff Coffin, and guitarist Michael Occhipinti, joined by brilliant bassist Felix Pastorius, Nashville/Toronto pianist Tom Reynolds, and drummer Davide Direnzo. Jeff Coffin is an omni-present saxophonist based in Nashville, who is best known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and more recently as a member of the Dave Matthews Band. However, Jeff has been composing original music and releasing albums with his M’utet for many years and is one of the most active instructors/clinicians working with young musicians in the United States. Felix Pastorius is the son of legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, and in recent years has established himself as a gifted bassist with an approach all his own.
The music is energetic, imaginative, and freely flows across styles. In Orbit shares a love of great grooves expressed with soulful spirt and deep musicianship.
SATURDAY, JULY 1
1 p.m. North Corridor Jazz All Stars
The North Corridor Jazz All Stars return for their fourth performance at the Iowa City Jazz Festival. Like the United Jazz Ensemble, this group is composed of some of the most talented high school jazz musicians in the Corridor from Cedar Rapids to Cedar Falls. Under the direction of Coe College music professor Steve Shanley, the North Corridor Jazz All Stars will present a musically diverse program featuring the many facets of Big Band repertoire. Always ensured to be a romping and swinging live jam, the North Corridor Jazz All Stars will certainly have the crowd moving to the beat and grinning with local pride.
3 p.m. Christopher’s Very Happy. Band.
Now more than ever, we all need a little more Happy.ness in our lives. The jubilant sound of Christopher’s Very Happy. Band. results from a combination of bright sounding compositions played with joyous abandon by its four members. All have interests and experiences across the gamut of current musical styles ranging from Classical to pop, electronica to soul. All of this experience comes to bear in their work together.
Christopher Merz, composer and saxophonist, is busy trying to figure out how to combine aspects of all of the music he loves (jazz, rock, pop, folk, and classical) into a satisfying and original whole. Michael Conrad is a composer, improviser, educator, and music lover. Pulling bits and pieces from a variety of musical sources and genres helps Dave Tiede create a versatile sound that he can call his own. Drew Morton, bassist and multimedia artist, is a regular musician with various groups in the area.
5 p.m. Jacob Garchik’s Ye Olde
Ye Olde explores progressive rock influences, faux-medieval architecture and surrealistic notions of a Brooklyn that never was. From trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik comes a fantastical and sublime work of the imagination. Ye Olde is a superband of three of Brooklyn’s baddest guitar heroes, let loose in a funhouse, playing ping pong with our ears: guitarists Mary Halvorson, Ava Mendoza and Jonathan Goldberger are joined by drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and Garchik on trombone.
Jacob Garchik, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger, was born in San Francisco and has lived in New York since 1994. In 2013 he was named a “Rising Star” in the Downbeat Magazine Jazz Critic’s Poll.
7 p.m. Kris Davis Quintet
Pianist-composer Kris Davis has blossomed as one of the singular talents on the New York jazz scene, a deeply thoughtful, resolutely individual artist who offers an “uncommon creative adventure,” according to JazzTimes. Reviewing one of the series of striking albums that Davis has released over the past decade, the Chicago Sun-Times lauded the “sense of kaleidoscopic possibilities” in her playing and compositions. She made her debut on record as a leader with Lifespan (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2003), followed by several more albums with various groups over the intervening years, many earning best of the year accolades from various publications. She was named one of “25 for the future” by Down Beat in 2016. She teaches at the School for Improvised Music. For the Jazz Festival, Davis will be joined by Mat Maneri on viola, Ingrid Laubrock on saxophone, bassist Trevor Dunn, and drummer Tom Rainey. About her art, JazzTimes declared: “Davis draws you in so effortlessly that the brilliance of what she’s doing doesn’t hit you until the piece has slipped past.”
9 p.m. The Cookers: Billy Hart, George Cables, Cecil McBee, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson, Billy Harper, and Donald Harrison
Experience counts, especially in jazz. The more time musicians spend interpreting tunes and interacting with others, the more articulation an audience can expect. You can hear the fruits of such work in the expressive language The Cookers bring to the bandstand and to their three critically acclaimed recordings, Warriors, Cast the First Stone and Believe. This exciting new all-star septet summons up an aggressive mid ‘60s spirit with a potent collection of expansive post-bop originals marked by all the requisite killer instincts and pyrotechnic playing expected of some of the heaviest hitters on the scene today.
Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart all came up in the heady era of the mid ‘60s. It was a period that found the dimensions of hard bop morphing from their original designs, and each of these guys helped facilitate the process as members of some of the most important bands of the era. Hart and Henderson were members of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi group; Cecil McBee anchored Charles Lloyd’s great ’60s quartet alongside Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette; Billy Harper was part of Lee Morgan’s last group, as well as being a member of Max Roach’s Quartet and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers; while George Cables held down the piano chair in numerous bands including groups led by Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper.
David Weiss and Donald Harrison, from a more recent generation and the youngest members of the band, are experts in this forthright lingo, having gained experience performing with Art Blakey, Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Tolliver, Roy Haynes and Herbie Hancock.
SUNDAY, JULY 2
2 p.m. Laura Caviani Trio
Laura Caviani is a veteran of two decades of performing, recording and composing. Most recently, her projects include arranging classical pieces in a jazz style, and revisiting the music of Thelonious Monk. Other projects include the music of Mary Lou Williams, Alec Wilder, and Horace Silver. In 2010, she was a finalist at the International Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2006, her release Going There enjoyed a long run on the JazzWeek national radio charts. Featuring all original work, it was hailed as “piano jazz trio of the highest order” by Downbeat contributor Bob Protzman. Other releases have received such praise as “stunningly fresh” from JazzTimes and “in a word, outstanding” from Tom Surowicz of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Recent commissions include diverse projects ranging from setting Edna St. Vincent Millay’s music to poetry (A Girl Named Vincent, Prudence Johnson) to composing string quartets (Four Voices) and choral works (Great River Chorale and VocalEssence). She holds degrees from both Lawrence University and The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. As a dedicated educator, she is on faculty at Carleton College, where she directs the jazz ensemble, coaches chamber groups, and teaches jazz piano.
4 p.m. John Raymond & Real Feels
Labeled “a prepossessing young trumpet player…” (New York Times), John Raymond has been making a name for himself as one of the most promising, up-and-coming jazz musicians in New York. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, John has performed with some of most well-respected names in jazz including Billy Hart, Orrin Evans, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ethan Iverson, and Linda Oh among others. John was awarded the 2015 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award presented by ASCAP, and was included in the “Rising Star Trumpet” category in Downbeat Magazine’s 2016 Critic’s Poll.
His newest album - "Real Feels - Live Vol. 1" (out October 7, 2016) - is a follow up effort to "Real Feels" that was recorded live on tour. The album includes rising stars Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Colin Stranahan (drums), and the unique bass-less trio incorporates indie-rock inspired originals and covers with fresh takes on familiar songs stemming from Raymond's roots as Midwesterner. From American folk songs like Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," to classic hymns such as "Amazing Grace," to Lennon & McCartney's "Blackbird," to Thom Yorke's "Atoms for Peace," the music undoubtedly evokes a nostalgia for the past. However, "Real Feels" is far from being antiquated; the band's improvisational, free-wheeling, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of approach to the music makes the songs feel entirely relevant.
6 p.m. Donny McCaslin Group
Acclaimed saxophonist Donny McCaslin takes a bold leap forward with his tenth album as a leader, Casting for Gravity. McCaslin's gargantuan tenor sound finds an ideal setting to rampage through in the ferocious grooves and electronic textures of keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana. Couching his trademark gift for brawny melodies in lurching dub rhythms, swirling electronica-inspired atmospheres, and arena-rock power, McCaslin has crafted a game-changer of an album, fusing a wealth of forward-looking influences into one wholly new modern jazz sound. McCaslin and band earned crossover accolades when they served as the backing combo on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar. It was a coming out party for a performer the jazz community knew well, and McCaslin has taken that opportunity to broaden his sound – and his audience – while maintaining his fierce allegiance to improvisational jazz. At the Jazz Festival, he will be joined by Nate Wood on drums, Jason Lindner on keyboards, and Jonathan Maron on bass.
8 p.m. Stacey Kent
The story of Stacey Kent's rise to international fame reads like a Hollywood script. An American language student visits Europe to study French, Italian and German for a Master’s degree in comparative literature. Her life takes an unexpected twist that sees Stacey Kent become one of the world's foremost jazz singers.
Stacey now boasts seven best-selling albums including The Boy Next Door (2003) which achieved Gold status, a string of awards, including the 2001 British Jazz Award and 2002 BBC Jazz Award for 'Best Vocalist,' the 2004 Backstage Bistro Award for best live performance and the 2006 "Album of the Year" for Jim Tomlinson's album, 'The Lyric' on which she was the featured vocalist, as well as a fan base that enables her to sell out concert halls around the world.
If there is one theme that runs through Stacey's music, it is that of romance. Stacey is herself an avowed romantic, and the songs she sings are timeless stories that touch young and old alike, fulfilling a desire for sophisticated love songs that is not catered to by today's pop music industry.
Three-time Oscar-winning songwriter, Jay Livingston, wrote of her, "Stacey Kent is a revelation. There is nobody singing today who can compare with her. She has the style of the greats, like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. And she sings the words like Nat Cole - clean, clear and almost conversational with perfect phrasing. And that's as good as it gets."