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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 melodieshis own and a few classicsin 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: Steely Dan's "Do It Again," the American Songbook classic "How High The Moon," and a gorgeously cool take on Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave," featuring the gentle freon caress of Bob Shepard's flute worka highlight for this listener. And of course, there's a Reed Kotler tune (Kotler produced the disc): the spicy closer, "Flying High." The Cunliffe-penned "Chucho" (for Cuban piano great Chucho Valdes, a logical guess), cooks with one fine solo after anothera trumpet soaring out of horn interplay, then Bob Shepard's tangy soprano sax, followed by a belt-it-out trombone turn, overalwaysthe ebullient percussion.
This is the type of recording that earns Grammy nodsbeautiful and perfectly crafted tunes without a weak spot to be found. Perhaps the next review of a Bill Cunliffe record will say "Grammy Award-winner" on it.
Track Listing: El Optimista, Do it Again, Bone Crusher, Afluencia, Chucho, Havana, Heat Wave, How High the Moon, Pure Imagination, Flying High
Personnel: Bill Cunliffe--piano, arranger; Bob Shepard--sax, flute; Bobby Shew, Kye Palmer--trumpet; Bruce Paulson, Arturo Velasco--trombone; Rene Camacho--bass; Joey De Leon, Jose "Papo" Rodriquez--percussion; Ramon Banda--drums
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.