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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
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...