University of Arkansas music professor James Greeson, a nationally respected jazz guitarist and composer, was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame last month.
Greeson was honored along with fellow musician and University of Arkansas graduate Joe Cripps at a special ceremony held at The Afterthought in Little Rock Dec. 17, hosted by the Arkansas Jazz Federation to honor outstanding contributions to the world of jazz by those with Arkansas connections.
Greeson teaches music composition and theory, directs the UA Jazz Ensemble, and teaches lessons in guitar and bass. He was born and raised in St. Louis, earned bachelor and master’s degrees in music from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a doctorate in music composition from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the University of Arkansas faculty in 1980.
Greeson’s compositions have been performed throughout the United States, including Carnegie Hall. He has performed as a guitarist or bassist with many important current jazz musicians, including Nnenna Freelon, Randy Brecker, Chris Potter, Bruce Barth, Mulgrew Miller and Bob Dorrough. Many of his jazz band scores have been played throughout the region, some of which are published by the University of Colorado Jazz Press.
He has also scored more than 15 documentary films broadcast nationwide on PBS. Four of his soundtracks have been nominated for Emmy Awards, and in 2009 his score for The Buffalo Flows received a mid-America regional Emmy Award.
Joe Cripps has played classical, rock and bluegrass music in a professional career that began more than 40 years ago while he was still a student at Springdale High School. He played tuba in the Razorback Marching Band as a U of A student in 1972, but his first love and main musical focus is jazz. He has played a variety of styles — small combo, big band and traditional Dixieland. He is a master of the upright bass, the electric bass and the tuba. He has been known to tell people that he “wanted to have all the basses covered.”