Multi-reed instrumentalist Christopher Merz has performed on 4 continents with members of the Brubeck family, including Dave Brubeck. During his 3-year stint as Lecturer of Jazz and Saxohone at the University of Natal in Durban, he performed with many of the giants of South African jazz including Hugh Masekela, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, and Barney Rachabane.
His recording credits include Steve McCraven, Darius Brubeck, John Rapson and Jon Snell, as well as his own projects; Counterculture, the Chris Merz/Bob Washut Duo, The X-tet, and Equilateral. His 1997 release with the X-tet, Mystery is My Story, prompted Dave Brubeck to write, “I am very pleased with this wonderful band. Naturally I would admire a group like yours that, to me, is a grand extension of what we were doing...when we were the ‘new thing’”. Current projects include Colossus Central (an exciting new big band led by UNI alum Michael Conrad) and the quartet, Christopher’s Very Happy. Band., which performs Merz’s originals exclusively. CVH.B.’s debut cd, We Are Bathed in Sunlight, was recently released on RealTown! Records. An accomplished composer/arranger for large jazz ensembles, Merz has received commissions from university and high school big bands throughout the country, and is published through UNC Jazz Press and ejazzlines. He is also a highly sought after guest soloist, clinician and conductor at university and high school jazz festivals nationwide, and is endorsed by Rico and TM Custom tenor saxophones.
Director of Jazz Studies at UNI, and the 2006 recipient of the CHFA University Book and Supply Outstanding Teaching award, Merz directs the award winning UNI Jazz Band One (which has recorded 13 compact disc under his leadership). He is the founder and director of the UNI Combo Camp, an annual event for high school jazz students and music educators, which takes place in June. He is also a Past President of Jazz Educators of Iowa (JEI).