John Rapson is a composer, trombonist pianist 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, Richard Stoltzman, Bobby Watson, Peter Apfelbaum and Jimmy Greene. Gramaphon magazine ranked his album Water and Blood as a “10; highly recommended” in its Guide to Good CDs. He has held previous positions at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California (1980-90) and at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (1992-93).
Mr. Rapson has written jazz compositions for ensembles of all stripes and recorded 27 albums, thirteen 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 received critical acclaim for two albums, Dances and Orations with Anthony Braxton and Water and Blood with Billy Higgins, which feature new compositions built from free improvisations by jazz masters. A third album in the trilogy, Mystery and Manners with Brazilian artists Nene Lima and Vinicius Dorin was released in 2011. His most recent album is The Night Sky and Turquoise Sea (2013) with eight new compositions for jazz orchestra.
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 (1990-93). 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 and recordings with Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Doc Cheatham, Ed Blackwell, Jay Hoggard, Walter Thompson and Allen Lowe.