John Rapson is a composer, trombonist and recording artist for MoMu Records, Music and Arts, Sound Aspects and Nine Winds whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. Jazz historian Mark Gridley has characterized his music as "extending several trends that were first demonstrated by Charles Mingus and George Russell." He has been professor of music at the University of Iowa since 1993, where he has collaborated on projects with Billy Higgins, Anthony Braxton, Kenny Wheeler, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Bennie Wallace, Rafael dos Santos, Matt Wilson, Anthony Cox, Mike Lee, Charlie Kohlhase, The Either/Orchestra, David Berkman, Rodrigo Ursaia, and Jimmy Greene.
Mr. Rapson has written jazz compositions for a variety of contexts, and recorded 21 albums, ten of which are under his own leadership and feature his compositions. In 2002, he won first prize in the Julius Hemphill Competition sponsored by the Jazz Composers Alliance for Riff Bass Bridge Head, from the album Daydreams from the Prairie. He has been widely-reviewed for two recent albums, Dances and Orations with Anthony Braxton and Water and Blood with Billy Higgins, which feature new compositions built from the free improvisations of jazz masters. Mystery and Manners, a similar project with Brazilian musicians Vinicius Dorin and Nene Lima, will be released on Nine Winds in the summer of 2010.
In 1995, Mr. Rapson was commissioned by AT&T to compose Sound Luminesce, a jazz suite that united musicians in Iowa and Japan via fibre optic technology in the first ever trans-pacific "live" performance. Rapson has also taught at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California (1980-90) and at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (1992-93). His concerts and recordings on the west coast include sessions with John Carter, Vinny Golia, Kim Richmond, Bruce Fowler, Clay Jenkins and Alex Cline. His collaborations while in the east included performances or recordings with Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Doc Cheatham, Ed Blackwell, Jay Hoggard, Walter Thompson and Allen Lowe.