Bill Cunliffe has earned his reputation for one of best jazz pianists today, period. Not only is he a respected author, but Cunliffe has composed a Grammy-winning album and arranged some of the greatest jazz ensembles ever created. Still highly sought after by club owners and patrons alike, it’s clear to see that Cunliffe is a piano master for a reason.”
Born on June 26, 1956, in Andover Massachusetts, Cunliffe himself says he was interested in performing music from an early age. After learning his piano skills from his mother, Cunliffe grew older and furthered his education by graduating from Duke University and getting his masters from the Eastman School of Music, all focusing on his newfound passion within music- jazz.
After teaching at Centrak State University in Ohio, Cunliffe toured with the Buddy Rich Big Band and even worked with Frank Sinatra. He won the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition in 1989 and began work on three jazz albums that all went on to receive rave reviews from major jazz magazines nationwide. In particular, his Bill in Brazil album created during a stint in Rio de Janeiro was so well received that it’s still one of his highest selling albums to date.
After Bill in Brazil, Cunliffe recorded more albums, including Satisfaction, a solo piano outing, Live at Rocco, with his sextet, and Partners in Crime, a Hammond B3 session with guitarist Jim Hershman and drummer Jeff Hamilton. In 2000, he recorded a sextet session of Earl Zindars’ music, and in 2001 Cunliffe documented his working trio of ten years with Live at Bernies, which was released on both CD and vinyl, highlighting his work with bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and former Bill Evans drummer Joe LaBarbera. Cunliffe has been a member of LaBarbera’s quintet featuring saxophonist Bob Sheppard and trumpeter Clay Jenkins virtually since its formation in the early 1990s, with a number of well-received albums on the Jazz Compass label.
Furthering his album dominance, Cunliffe’s 2003 recording Imaginacion reached No. 2 in the nationwide jazz charts. In the wake of this impressive album debut, Cunliffe was also working on two books, Jazz Keyboard Toolbox and Jazz Inventions for Keyboard. He later went on to publish audio CD’s to go along with both well-selling jazz education books. In 2006 he was also nominated for a Grammy award for his jazz arrangement of the Steely Dan song “Do It Again”
More recently, Bill Cunliffe has been seen leading the Resonance Jazz Orchestra at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Hollywood, California. He’s also been composing numerous works with several high-profile orchestras, ranging from the e Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Manhattan School of Music Symphony and the Rio Hondo Symphony Orchestra. His concerto for trumpet and orchestra entitled fourth stream… La Banda (2010) was nominated for a Grammy, as was his three-movement piano concerto Overture, Waltz and Rondoin 2012.
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