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Latin Jazz is a style of music containing Caribbean and South American rhythms and influences.

This year, the University of Iowa School of Music’s Jazz Department is in full preparation mode for the annual Latin Jazz Festival.

The festival’s concert, sponsored by the School of Music, will take place at 7:30 p.m. today in the Riverside Recital Hall. There will also be a daylong educational event for high-school musicians on Friday with a performance at 6 p.m. at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Both events are free and open to the public.

This year will feature the Johnson County Landmark ensemble (directed by John Rapson) and the Latin Jazz Ensemble (directed by James Dreier), as well as this year’s guest artist, Felipe Salles.

Dreier, a UI jazz faculty lecturer, teaches Jazz Improvisation and Jazz Cultures in America and Abroad. He has been the director of the Latin Jazz Ensemble since 2003.

He said the music can be anything from Brazilian bossa nova to Cuban mambo to calypso, and the music has a wide spectrum, including a world of unique characteristics and histories.

“I have a strong interest in the music and have traveled to Cuban and Brazil numerous times,” Dreir said. “It’s kind of my baby and a chance for me to continue studying and learning right along with the students.”

Salles, a Brazilian-born jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator, will participate in this year’s event as an Ida Beam visiting scholar.

Salles is an assistant professor of Jazz and African-American Music Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Latin jazz is broad, he said, drawing from Latin American rhythmic and melodic sources including Brazilian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Argentinean, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Venezuelan music.

“I am very excited to have my large ensemble music played by such great bands as the Johnson County Landmark, directed by [Rapson], and the Latin Jazz Ensemble, directed by [Dreier], who have been working hard to bring to life a very challenging set of my original music,” Salles said.

Senior music student Ashleigh Brown said the festival brings something original to the music school.

“Latin jazz isn’t something that is often featured in jazz festivals, so it’s cool that we’re able to be exposed to it here at Iowa,” Brown said. “It’s something different that is beautiful and unique.”


Latin Jazz Festival
When: 7:30 P.M. today
Where: Riverside Recital Hall, 405 N. Riverside
Admission: Free

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