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BILL CUNLIFFE, Professor of Music

Bill CunliffeJazz pianist, composer and Grammy Award-winning arranger Bill Cunliffe is known for his innovative and swinging recordings and compositions. The winner of several Down Beat awards for his big band and orchestral pieces toured as pianist and arranger with the Buddy Rich Big Band and worked with Frank Sinatra, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson and James Moody. He currently plays with his trio, his big band and his Latin band, Imaginación, and performs in the U.S. and around the world as a leader and sideman.
Cunliffe recently received his fifth Grammy nomination, in the Best Instrumental Composition category, for his Overture, Waltz and Rondo for jazz piano, trumpet and orchestra. The work was performed by Cunliffe, trumpeter Terell Stafford and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Luis Biava (BCM+D Records, 2012).

Cunliffe’s other recent releases are his Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, with tubist Jim Self and the Hollywood Ensemble, conducted by Cunliffe (Metre Records, 2012); “That Time of Year” (Metre Records, 2011), an album of solo improvisations on Christmas carols that was described as a “tour de force” in the Los Angeles Times; and “Three’s Company,” with flutist Holly Hofmann and guest artists including violinist Regina Carter and clarinetist Ken Peplowski (Capri Records, 2010).

Among other film projects, Cunliffe wrote the score for “On the Shoulders of Giants,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 2011 documentary about the legendary Harlem Rens basketball team of the 1930s. He is currently working on a film noir directed by Ying J. Tan.

Cunliffe’s books “Jazz Keyboard Toolbox” and “Jazz Inventions for Keyboard” (Alfred Music Publishing) have become standard reference works. His most recent publications are “Uniquely Christmas” (2012), a book of arrangements inspired by his CD “That Time of Year,” and “Uniquely Familiar: Standards for Advanced Solo Piano” (2010).

Cunliffe is a winner of the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition and has received stipends from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to his work as jazz studies professor at Cal State Fullerton, Cunliffe teaches at the Skidmore Jazz Institute and the Vail Jazz Workshop.

Cunliffe was awarded a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for 2009 for “West Side Story Medley,” on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson” (Resonance Records). He was nominated in 2010 for Best Instrumental Composition for his concerto for trumpet and orchestra, “fourth stream … La Banda,” performed by Terell Stafford and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra (BCM+D Records).

The Los Angeles Jazz Society honored Cunliffe in 2010 with its Composer/Arranger Award.

Cunliffe, who grew up in Andover, Mass., studied jazz at Duke University with pianist Mary Lou Williams and received his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music.

Send an email to Bill Cunliffe