Night is Alive Feature: Bill Cunliffe, Pianist

Upcoming Performance at Nighttown, Cleveland

Bill Cunliffe, his all-star octet, and jazz vocalist Andy James are currently in the middle of a multi-city tour. In addition to serving as James’ Music Director and arranger, Cunliffe is featured on the international Flamenco star’s recent EP “Mean to Me” ( Be sure to catch the group’s dynamic performance at Nighttown in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, July 19, 2019, at 8:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at This is an evening you will not want to miss!

Honorable Mention

In June 2019, Night is Alive artist Bill Cunliffe was mentioned in the award-winning JAZZIZ Magazine. The article, which can be found at, praised vocalist Maggie Herron and Cunliffe for their co-produced, recently released album, A Ton of Trouble. The album won a high honor: Jazz Album of the Year at the The Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, Hawaii’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Not only did Cunliffe arrange six of the album’s songs, but he also accompanied Herron on piano for those tracks. In a separate interview with Big Island Music Magazine, Herron stated, “Bill has the knack to speak for me stylistically with his arrangements after listening to my bare bones renditions at the piano.”

For more about award-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe and Night is Alive, visit

A Little Bit About John William Coltrane

John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was born in his family’s apartment in Hamlet, North Carolina. In 1938, most of his family died, and he ended up moving to Philadelphia in 1943.He was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and was later at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least fifty recording sessions during his career.

Coltrane played the clarinet and the alto horn in a community band before taking up the alto saxophone during high school. He had his first professional gigs in early to mid-1945 – a “cocktail lounge trio,” with piano and guitar. He was only 19 years old when playing in lounges.

As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in music history. He received many posthumous awards and recognition’s, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane and a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

To avoid being drafted by the Army, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on August 6, 1945, the day the first U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He was trained as an apprentice seaman at Sampson Naval Training Station in upstate New York before he was shipped to Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed at Manana Barracks, the largest posting of African-American servicemen in the world.

Coltrane became one of the few Navy men to serve as a musician without having been granted musicians rating when he joined the Melody Masters, the military base swing band. As the Melody Masters was an all-white band, however, Coltrane was treated merely as a guest performer to avoid alerting superior officers of his participation in the band.

In 1946, he was discharged from the military and returned to Philadelphia where he immersed himself in the jazz music scene. He was known as “Trane” throughout the jazz music world. He went on to famously become a member of groups led by several other famous musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges in the early to mid-1950s.

Trane is still inspiring musicians today and many try to replicate his sound. He will forever be associated with great early American Jazz Music.

Did you know Ralph Moore honored John Coltrane at the Lakeland Jazz Festival? Read about how the former Tonight Show saxophonists performed here!

On the Radio with Donna Summer

Often a song can pack so much sound and history that you can close your eyes and be transported.  Donna Summer’s “On the Radio” is a song so amazing that it serves as a marker for all songs of the disco century.  The song has the DNA of everything that made disco great. Listening to Donna Summer’s classic “On the Radio” puts you right back in the glitter and dance of disco long ago.

The song has a storied past. Initially written by her producer Giorgio Moroder and first played for her at his house in early 1979, the song failed to move Summer. Moroder put the song on the shelf knowing that someday it would be just right for her.  

Months later Moroder was working on the soundtrack for the movie “Foxes” and could not get the song out of his head.   He approached Summer again and asked her to listen one more time. This time she felt it and agreed to re-write the lyrics and record the song.  

Not an easy re-write, she is quoted as saying the whole song came from the lyric “It must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat.”  She wrote the song about lost love and the emotions that remain. From that point on, she knew where and how the song should go. A hit was born. The slow-ballad beginning that gives way to that incredible disco drum beat pushed the song to the top of the charts.  The song became so popular so fast that they included the track on her upcoming album release. They named the album “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II.”

Donna Summer’s loved the song “On the Radio” and commented that she always felt the song was a legato Italian melody at its heart.  Hearing the song again feels like being in a time machine traveling to an era that has not lost any of its detail or flare. Donna Summer’s “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II” is a fantastic song collection and worthy of inclusion on anyone’s playlist.


Post Written By Michael Brigger 

George Szell: Cleveland’s Great Conductor

Ask anyone to list their favorite things about Cleveland, and the Orchestra is sure to be on the top of many of those lists.  Cleveland is home to the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland Orchestra has been commanding a considerable presence in the music world for over 100 years.  Started in 1918, The Cleveland Orchestra has had many great conductors. George Szell is one of the legends who took over in 1946 and ran the orchestra like clockwork for 24 years.  In his time at the helm, he molded the Cleveland Orchestra into a perfect music machine. To celebrate his career, Sony Classical has released “George Szell: The Complete Columbia Album Collection.”  

Originally released as a 106-disc collection, the actual number of CDs shows how prolific George Szell was.  Szell ran the orchestra in an era where the conductor was the god and general of everything. The devotion he required from his musicians was notorious.  Szell was an authoritarian and needed absolute control. Szell’s musical compositions feel exact, detailed and complete in execution. Szell was an incredibly productive artist, and his utter drive and enthusiasm for perfecting the music are on full display in the recordings. While Cleveland was his home, there are several recordings that Szell made with the New York Philharmonic and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. What is interesting about Szell is how he approached each piece of music.  He is from the school of thinking that the conductor’s job is to reproduce the music exactly as the composer intended. His reproductions of some of the great musical works are seen as the unobstructed view of the composer reproduced by the capable hands of Szell and the fantastic artists of the Cleveland Orchestra. He is known for his literal translation of the romantic era composers especially. His renditions of Beethoven and Brahms are some of the best reproduction of the great composers’ music.  

George Szell is known for his utter devotion to the Cleveland Orchestra with a tenure lasting a quarter century.  While many artists would not be able to keep the music fresh, Szell never tired from his passion. Whether the music was created in the 1700’s or 1900’s, Szell worked tirelessly to produce orchestrations that reflected what the composers intended.

Post written by Michael Brigger 

Real Jazz With Willie Jones III

Downbeat magazine wrote a fantastic piece on our very own Willie Jones III. The 49- year-old drummer, who just sold out two shows at the famous Blues Alley nightclub in Washington, D.C, had this to say about his new album My Point Is… (WJ3):

“The common ground for these musicians is that they all love to play in a style that some would call hard-bop or straight ahead—what I’d call real jazz.  Real jazz to me has the rhythmic feel of swinging. You can improvise, but change the rhythm base, and the style is different. It’s great if blues is in it, but there doesn’t necessarily have to be. The groove basis for jazz is the ride cymbal.  If I want to play r&b or funk, then the emphasis will be on the backbeat with the snare drum and hi-hat.  I can do that.”

The high-ranking jazz drummer, who is currently touring across the United States and Europe, is best known for his time performing with the Roy Hargrove’s quintet.  Willie Jones III is also well respected in the jazz industry.  

Ted Panken, the writer of the three-page spread on Willie Jones III, dives into discussing everything from Jones’ ideas on the future of jazz, how he handles booking gigs, being a bandleader and running his own recording studio WJ3 Records, as well as Jones’ major musical influences in his life.

For those looking to read more about Willie Jones III and discover how a top-tier jazz artist lives and works in our modern age, head over to and read Willie Jones III Merges Swing and Swagger by Ted Panken!  

Scotty McCreery Knows The Rules

When it comes to singing with emotion there are few country artist that can match Scotty McCreery. Country music was created by musicians that wore their hearts on their sleeves and Scotty McCreery is no exception.  

McCreery’s musical beginnings happened at a young age. He was first influenced around the age of 6 by Elvis Presley. McCreery’s grandmother is credited with introducing him to the music of Elvis who became one of his biggest influences. His North Carolina roots lead him to country. Around the age of 9 he began to learn guitar and write his own music. McCreery continued his musical path through high school in North Carolina where he received notoriety for being such a gifted singer.

The first time most country fans were introduced to McCreery was in 2011 on the tenth season of American Idol. He went on to win that tenth season at the young age of sixteen. After winning, McCreery went on tour with American Idol, his first experience with a big fully staged music tour.

Shortly after the America Idol tour, McCreery released his first single I Love You This Big. The song debuted on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at number 32, quickly becoming the highest debut for a single since 1990. His debut album, titled Clear as Day, was released shortly after in 2011 and was well received. McCreery made history as the first country act to debut at No. 1 on Billboard 200 with their first studio album, as well as the youngest man to open at the top of the chart with his debut release.  He was a hit.

Always having a strong sense of family and home, McCreery’s next project was the release of, Christmas with Scotty McCreery“, in 2012. The album is a reflection of a classic country style that included nine holiday classics and two new holiday songs. “Christmas with Scotty McCreery” was a hit and went on to be certified gold.

McCreery recently released his forth album, Seasons Change, in March 2018 to critical acclaim. The album’s lead single Five More Minutes, gained in radio popularity at a point when McCreery was not signed to a label. The hit made McMcCreery the only country music artist in Country Aircheck/Mediabase history to chart a song without the backing of a record label. He went on to sign with Triple Tigers label and in early 2018 “Five More Minutes” became McCreery’s first No. 1 Country Airplay single.  The hit would top Billboard and Mediabase in February 2018 and was certified platinum.

Country fans can expect Scotty McCreery to keep delivering great new country songs.  From Elvis to Idol, he has shown that time and passion make great country.