Bill Cunliffe


Bill Cunliffe, piano

SKU: AJD-72208 Category: Tags: ,

Track Listing

1. My Heart Stood Still (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)

2. Back at the Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith)

3. Adagio (Sergei Rachmaninoff)

4. Corcovado (A.C. Jobim)

5. But Beautiful (Jimmy Van Heusen)

6. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards)

7. Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Jimmy Van Heusen)

8. That Warm Feeling (Sammy Nestico)

9. Lost Weekend (Bill Cunliffe)

10. I Want to Talk About You (Billy Eckstein)

11. You and the Night and the Music (Music by Arthur Schwartz, Lyrics by Howard Dietz)

12. I Have Dreamed (Richard Rodgers)

Total Playing Time [61.34]

March 1999

A former student of Bill Dobbin’s, Bill Cunliffe later had the pleasure of working with Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra, and currently does piano duty in the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. This thoroughly enjoyable solo recital, apparently recorded over a three-year span at the Cleveland Museum of Art, works its magic in subtle ways. Cunliffe namechecks Garner, Tatum, Oscar, Nat and Teddy as his influences, and listeners who count the above among their favored pianists will be well pleased with the way he piles them into his car at his particular intersection. Unexpected accents, and skillful shifts in dynamics and harmony, are topped off with an obvious love for his chosen material. He swings “Chicken Shack” and “You And The Night And The Music” in the aristocratic fashion of his influences, and invests Rachmaninoff’s “Adagio” with a flowing romanticism that tugs at the heart. There’s a dazzling “I Want to Talk About You,” a “Polka Dots” with delicate Tatum echoes, and two originals, the rich “Lost Weekend,” and the moving, “To Ruth.” Cunliffe is the kind of guy who tends to get referred to as “a pianist’s piano player,” and this supremely satisfying set shows why.

–Larry Nai

February 1999

Bill Cunliffe’s solo piano recording of thirteen classic songs includes “Corcovado,” “But Beautiful”, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “My Heart Stood Still”, and Mick Jagger’s “Satisfaction”. Jimmy Smith’s “Back at the Chicken Shack”, with its constant rhythmic left-hand motion, folds the listener right up into the music. With the bass notes on the right channel and the upper melody on the left channel, it’s as if Cunliffe were sitting there facing you and sharing the expressions of the music firsthand. Sammy Nestico’s “That Warm Feeling” captures the soft, slow Count Basie Orchestra mood, punctuated by loud staccato blasts.
Here, the pianist’s right hand chords replace Basie’s brass section. Cunliffe’s own “Lost Weekend” and “To Ruth” express the core of his improvisational style: the left hand provides wide-ranging motion as a natural foundation while the right hand explores and creates lyric melodies. A gentle Sergei Rachmaninoff “Adagio” spins its familiar melody to the listener with lush arpeggiated harmonies.

The title track paints the lyrics “I Can’t Get no/Satisfaction” lightly and with a vocal inflection; the song’s expression comes through Cunliffe’s treatment of the whole. The pianist’s unique offering relies on a rock’n’roll left hand motion, subtle repetition, and Cunliffe’s own manner of phrasing. After studying with Mary Lou Williams at Duke University, Cunliffe moved to Rochester, New York, where he earned a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music. Experience with the Buddy Rich Big Band, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey, James Moody, and many more broadened the pianist’s career and eventually brought him to Los Angeles.

In Southern California, Cunliffe appears with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Kim Richmond Big Band, Natalie Cole, Holly Hofmann, Sonya Jason, Julie Kelly, and as a leader.


–Jim Santella