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Bill Cunliffe: Imaginacion

Dan McClenaghan By

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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 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: 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 work—a 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 another—a trumpet soaring out of horn interplay, then Bob Shepard's tangy soprano sax, followed by a belt-it-out trombone turn, over—always—the ebullient percussion.

This is the type of recording that earns Grammy nods—beautiful 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.

Visit Bill Cunliffe on the web.

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

Title: Imaginacion | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Torii Records

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