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Bill Cunliffe

Jazz pianist, composer and Grammy® Award-​winning arranger Bill Cunliffe is known for his innovative and swinging recordings and compositions. Bill began his career as pianist and arranger with the Buddy Rich Big Band and worked with Frank Sinatra, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson and James Moody. 

Currently

  • Plays with his trio and his big band, his latin band, Imaginación, and Trimotif, his classical-​jazz ensemble
  • Performs in the U.S. and around the world as a leader and sideman as well as a soloist with symphony orchestras
  • Professor of Jazz Studies, College of the Arts at Cal State Fullerton
  • Composer in Residence, All Saints Church, Pasadena, California, since 2001

Recent recordings

  • Bill Cunliffe Trio: “River Edge, New Jersey” with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner (Azica Records, 2014)
  • Overture, Waltz and Rondo for jazz piano, trumpet and orchestra (BCM+D Records, 2012) received a Grammy nomination (Bill’s fifth) for Best Instrumental Composition
  • Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, with tubist Jim Self and the Hollywood Ensemble, with Bill conducting (Metre Records, 2012)
  • That Time of Year” solo improvisations on Christmas carols (Metre Records, 2011) “a tour de force” — Los Angeles Times
  • Transformation” with Canterbury and Coventry Choirs, James Walker conducting (Metre Records, 2008)

Awards

  • NAACP Image Award Nomination for Best Album for the film “On the Shoulders of Giants,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s homage to the Harlem Rens basketball team of the 1920s and ’30s
  • Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “West Side Story Medley,” on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson” (Resonance Records, 2009)
  • Two-​time Emmy nominee
  • Los Angeles Jazz Society 2010 Composer/​Arranger Award
  • Distinguished Faculty Member, College of the Arts at Cal State Fullerton
  • Winner, 1989 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition

Beginnings

  • Childhood in Andover, Massachusetts
  • Jazz studies at Duke University with pianist Mary Lou Williams
  • Masters degree, Eastman School of Music