Cunliffe/Nelson/Kauflin PIANO FEST 1
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. He has since established himself as a solo artist and bandleader, with more than a dozen albums under his name.
Bill currently plays with his trio; his big band; his Latin band, Imaginación; and his classical-jazz ensemble, Trimotif. He performs in the U.S. and around the world as a leader and sideman as well as a soloist with symphony orchestras.
His latest recording is the Bill Cunliffe Trio album “River Edge, New Jersey,” with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner, released in April by Azica Records.
Other recent releases include his Overture, Waltz and Rondo for jazz piano, trumpet and orchestra (BCM+D Records, 2012). Bill performed the work with trumpeter Terell Stafford and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Luis Biava. The recording won Bill his fifth Grammy nomination, in the Best Instrumental Composition category.
Also released in 2012 was his Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, with tubist Jim Self and the Hollywood Ensemble, with Bill conducting (Metre Records, 2012). Bill’s album of solo improvisations on Christmas carols, “That Time of Year” (Metre Records, 2011), was described as a “tour de force” in the Los Angeles Times.
Bill’s other recordings show his affinity for Latin rhythms (“Bill in Brazil,” Imaginación” and his Grammy-nominated trumpet concerto “fourth stream … La Banda”) and pay tribute to some of his musical heroes, including Bud Powell, Oliver Nelson and Paul Simon.
Bill wrote the score for the film “On the Shoulders of Giants,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s homage to the Harlem Rens basketball team of the 1920s and ’30s. The movie recently received an NAACP Image Award for Best Documentary. Bill’s soundtrack was nominated for Best Album.
He recently completed scoring a film noir by Singaporean director Ying J. Tan and is producing a jazz album for singer Freda Payne.
Bill’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).
Bill was awarded a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “West Side Story Medley,” on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson” (Resonance Records, 2009). In addition to receiving five Grammy nominations, he is a two-time Emmy nominee.
The Los Angeles Jazz Society honored Bill in 2010 with its Composer/Arranger Award. That year he was also named a Distinguished Faculty Member of the College of the Arts at Cal State Fullerton, where he is a jazz studies professor. He also teaches at the Skidmore Jazz Institute and the Vail Jazz Workshop.
Bill grew up in Andover, Mass. He studied jazz at Duke University with pianist Mary Lou Williams and received his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music. He was the 1989 winner of the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.
born and raised in Southern California pianist-composer-bandleader Josh Nelson has performed with some of the most respected names in jazz, including Kurt Elling, John Pizzarelli, Benny Golson, Sheila Jordan, John Clayton, George Mraz, Jeff Hamilton, Dave Koz, Joe Chambers and Peter Erskine.
Nelson toured with legendary vocalist Natalie Cole for six years and continues to tour with vocalists Gaby Moreno, Freda Payne, Alicia Olatuja, Sara Gazarek, accordionist Richard Galliano, saxophonist Tom Scott, multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and violinist Christian Howes. He taught jazz for four years at Soka University and more recently at Cal State University Northridge. In 2006, Nelson was a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.
His debut album as a leader, 2004’s Anticipation, garnered attention while his 2007 followup, Let it Go, was hailed by Jazz Times, All About Jazz and Jazz Review as a fully-realized breakthrough album. Nelson’s next album, 2009’s I Hear a Rhapsody, had him re-imagining Jerry Goldsmith’s “Theme From Chinatown,” Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day” and Elliott Smith’s “Everything Means Nothing To Me” while contributing seven affecting originals.
With 2011’s sci-fi influenced Discoveries, Nelson introduced his Discovery Project, an immersive multi-media presentation combining video, performance art, light and art installations with his original music.
He followed with another ambitious Discovery Project in 2015’s Exploring Mars, which wedded evocative musical themes to spectacular NASA/JPL video footage of the Red Planet.
Nelson’s latest, 2017’s The Sky Remains, is his love letter to Los Angeles. The third in his Discovery Project series, it unearths hidden gems and little-known stories about the composer’s hometown. From the lurid tale behind benefactor and namesake of L.A.’s famous Griffith Park to the sad transition of wondrous Pacific Ocean Park to an eyesore on the beach to the forgotten, bittersweet story of Mack Robinson. A silver medal winner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (coming in second to Jesse Owens), Mack was also the brother of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and later became a hero in his own right through his civic activism on behalf of the City of Angels. The Sky Remains blends narrative and music in persuasive fashion. Throughout this ambitious outing, Nelson and his talented crew of fellow Angelenos convey sentiment about the city and its treasures while uncovering lost history and acknowledging a few L.A. icons along the way. “I’m definitely in awe of what’s in this city and its quiet history,” says the prolific composer. “Maybe it’s just a product of having been born here, but I’m discovering new things and stories about it that were just sitting right under my nose. And I’m hoping that people who hear these stories might be interested in learning more about the fascinating history of Los Angeles.
Justin Kauflin is a “jazz pianist who favors a clarity of touch and ideas, rarely spinning into an orbit he can’t control” (The New York Times). After losing his sight at the age of 11, Kauflin gravitated towards playing jazz piano, despite having a background in classical violin. He received top honors at jazz festivals across the U.S. and began performing professionally by age 15, most notably with the Jae Sinnett Trio. In 2004, he received the Presidential Scholarship to attend William Paterson University in New York and while studying there, he was taken under the tutelage of the legendary Clark Terry (winner of the 2010 Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz) and was then invited to play in the Clark Terry Ensemble.He continued to garner numerous awards such as the VSA International Young Soloist Award, he was selected as a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2011, and was voted “Jazz Artist of the Year” in VEER Magazine.
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