River Edge, New Jersey is like a trip down memory lane for pianist Bill Cunliffe. The California-based ivory tickler looks back to his days as an East Coast resident, teaming up with two highly capable, once-upon-a-time colleagues--bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner--who call New Jersey home. He further taps into the nostalgia well by visiting songs from his youth (Harry Nilsson's One") and material expressly written in honor of those who have had a strong impact on him over the years. All of the topics at hand were essentially born of the past in some way, shape or form, ...read more
Pianist Bill Cunliffe harkens back to his youth in That Time of Year, recording solos on Christmas songs that he says he fondly remembers. This talented, versatile performer is also an esteemed composer-arranger, having been nominated for Grammy awards three times, winning in 2010 for Best Instrumental Arrangement. A Southern Californian, he currently teaches at California State University, Fullerton, playing local gigs and recording extensively. The 14 songs range from the pious simplicity of Angels from the Realms of Glory" and Silent Night" and a partying, funky version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," to his nostalgic, ...read more
There's always the danger of getting all schmaltzy with Christmas music, but jazz people are hipper than average and can usually come up with something appropriately cool to spin around holiday time. That's exactly what pianist/composer Bill Cunliffe has done with That Time of Year.Cunliffe is a versatile artist who is comfortable in any size ensemble--from his Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (Resonance Records, 2008) to his Grammy-winning arrangement on Resonance Big Band's Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson (Resonance, 2009)--but the Christmas mood finds him going it alone, showcasing his considerable piano chops on a set ...read more
West Coast pianist Bill Cunliffe has released a most welcome holiday disc in That Time of Year. With Christmas coming commercially before Halloween in bigger and more brazen waves each year, having the music of the season reduced to its sheer elements by a well-versed master is refreshing, if not spiritually reviving. Cunliffe's pianism is urbane and lyrical, perfectly suited for interpreting a well- worn and loved repertoire. Cunliffe has previously demonstrated his knack for freshly focused concepts for old songs on Bill Plays Bud (Naxos, 1998) and The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 (Resonance, 2008). He transfers ...read more
Bill Cunliffe The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2 Resonance Records 2008Oliver Nelson (1932-1975) was a saxophonist, arranger, and composer who seemed everywhere in the 1960s. In popular culture, Nelson is best remembered for his television scoring for shows including Ironside, Night Gallery, Columbo, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Longstreet. In jazz culture, Nelson is remembered for his masterpiece The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961).The Blues And The Abstract Truth boasted a superstars-in-the-1960s lineup that included pianist Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers, ... read more
Grammy-nominated pianist Bill Cunliffe loves a good melody. He's recorded a couple of sets of Reed Kotler's beautifully lyrical tunes, most recently Tomo (Torii, '05). With his latest offering, Imaginacion, the pianist/arranger wraps some melodies--his own and a few classics--in a strong Latin vibe.The expanded lineup, featuring two trombones, two trumpets, and a reed player, plus piano and bass, along with three percussionists, offers more harmonic possiblities, and Cunliffe has a genius in this arena, crafting lush washes of sound over the percolating percussion.Five of the tunes here are Cunliffe originals, and the covers are well-chosen: ...read more
Tomo is the second album on Torri honoring composer Reed Kotler, following last year's release of It's About Love by pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe. Though little known outside San Francisco, Kotler is a modern composer who seems to have struck an appreciative chord with the Los Angeles-based Cunliffe.
As with It's About Love, the music on Tomo is gentle and relaxing. Offering a handsome set of twelve tunes, the group of saxophonist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Mark Ferber evoke the softer sides of jazz, though always mindful of a jovial beat. The ...read more
Pianist Bill Cunliffe, winner of the 1989 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, seems to be making something of a career out of recording Reed Kotler tunes. He did that with Bobby Shew, Gary Foster and Friends Play the Music of Reed Kotler in 2002; Bill Cunliffe and Gary Foster: It's About Love: The Music of Reed Kotler in 2003; and now he offers up Tomo: The Music of Reed Kotler.Five musicians are named on the disc's cover, but with Cunliffe sitting in the producer/arranger chair, you might call this group Bill Cunliffe and Friends.The sound here ...read more
It's always a pleasure to hear a release from the Torii catalogue. The five musicians presented here often play together in each other's company and also appear on other Torii albums, including 2002's Bobby Shew, Gary Foster and Friends Play the Music of Reed Kotler, and two albums from the next year, It's About Love: The Music of Reed Kotler and Bill Cunliffe's How My Heart Sings: The Music of Earl Zindars.
Tomo" is a Japanese word for friend or soulmate, and in a sense, you could easily say that all of the musicians (and composer Kotler) are ...read more
The genius of this teaming of pianist Bill Cunliffe and saxophonist Gary Foster on It's About Love is their ability to play jazz that evokes images of dapper men decked out in gleaming tuxedos, elegant bejewled ladies draped in sparkling evening gowns, all sipping from long-stemmed glasses of bubbly champagne. Classy sounding stuff. And Bill Cunliffe is on a roll. Last year's How My Heart Sings (Torii Records), a sextet recording featuring the songs of the overlooked tunesmith Earl Zindars, moved right up the JazzWeek Radio Jazz Charts, and it still holds (as of Feb. 20) the #41 position. Now, ...read more
Bill Cunliffe Latin Jazz Nonet Spazio Sherman Oaks, CA February 16, 2004
As with his other projects Bill Cunliffe’s new band runs in an intelligent, fresh direction. An outgrowth of his straight-ahead sextet, the key to this band (besides the extra percussion) is the double trombones with the fuller, darker sound available. At times Cunliffe summons up a “Moorish" flavor ("Sketches of Spain"), but more often he gets a little big band sound. He doesn’t overstay in one groove or mood.
Cunliffe treated his repertoire, a mix of standards and originals, as real music--not ...read more
There is a tendency to be indifferent to the familiar - an absence of appreciation with an assumption of the routine. But there is a wisdom in nothing lasts forever. So perhaps, it would behoove us to be grateful that we have musicians locally like Bill Cunliffe (unedited and in his own words), who too yearns for a renewed sense of community. With harmonic and lyrical sensibilities rivaling certified headliners in celebrated New York, Cunliffe has certainly honored Los Angeles with his loyalty to the belief that jazz in Los Angeles can one day be a palace again.
All About ...read more
This album is a second volume presenting the music of composer Reed Kotler, following Bobby Shew-Gary Foster and Friends Play the Music of Reed Kotler (2002). It's About Love resumes with 13 songs as played by Gary Foster, Bill Cunliffe, Jeff D'Angelo and Tim Pleasant. Foster is one of Los Angeles' best kept secrets. I've heard him over the past 25 years on many Concord records and on smaller labels but rarely leading his own group. Cunliffe has been receiving increasing praise for his compositional, arranging skills and piano work over the recent past. Last year's How My Heart Sings ...read more
On this record subtitled The Music of Earl Zindars," Bill Cunliffe pays tribute to the composer who wrote the jazz standard How My Heart Sings," which began life as the exclusive property of Bill Evans in 1956. Throughout a lengthy friendship and business relationship, Evans championed a number of Zindars' songs, such as Elsa," on his many recordings. There are probably scores of musicians who have also recorded the title song, including vocalist Kim Parker, daughter of Bird, about 20 years ago. For the first time, Cunliffe is bringing the Zindars songbook to the full attention of the jazz public. ...read more
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