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Jazz pianist, composer and arranger Bill Cunliffe is widely known for his swinging and lyrical pianism and his creativity and invention as a composer and arranger of jazz. He graduated from Duke University and the Eastman School of Music, where he won several Down Beat Awards. After graduation, he taught at Central State University, in Wilberforce, Ohio. His first major jazz gig was pianist and arranger with Buddy Rich, touring Europe with Frank Sinatra. He later performed with Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Woody Shaw and James Moody.
Bill was the 1989 winner of the $10,000 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Award, and has received stipends from the National Endowment for the Arts. A number of his jazz instructional books are published by Alfred Publications, his big band compositions are published by Kendor Music and Otter Music, and his choral music is self-published on his website www.billcunliffe.com. Bill was Marian McPartland's guest on her famed "Piano Jazz" radio show in June '98.
Cunliffe has released a dozen CD’s as a leader, his latest, which reached the #2 position in the JazzWeek radio polls is Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2, on Resonance Records. He currently performs with his own trio, the Joe LaBarbera Quintet, and in duo with flutist Holly Hofmann.
This year, Bill received a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his West Side Story Medley, released on the CD, “The Resonance Big Band Pays Tribute to Oscar Peterson.” He has also been nominated for three Grammys and two Emmys as a composer and arranger. His latest film project is "On The Shoulders of Giants," a documentary about jazz and basketball in Harlem in the 30's, produced by basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Bill has composed extensively for big band, chamber groups, choir and orchestra. His concerto for trumpet and orchestra, “fourth stream… La Banda,” featuring Terell Stafford with the Temple University Symphony, was recently premiered at Alice Tully Hall, in New York and at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia,. In addition, his performances of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, that feature jazz trio improvisation have won public acclaim. According to the Wellington (NZ) Times, Bill’s recent concert at the Wellington Jazz Festival was "Best jazz piano since Oscar Peterson." The BBC Review recently said that "Bill Cunliffe is one of the great players of the day." The Atlanta Jazz Journal gave his album A Rare Connection five stars.
He teaches at the Vail Jazz Institute, and the Skidmore Jazz Institute, and is Associate Professor of Music at Cal State Fullerton. He is also composer-in-residence at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA.
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