As house pianist at the Greenwich Tavern, and later, upon moving to Los Angeles, he worked with many legends of jazz, including Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson and James Moody. He was, for a long time, the pianist in the Clayton Brothers Quintet. He currently works with his own trio, and sextet, flutist Holly Hofmann, and his Latin jazz group, Imaginacion. His first three albums for Warner/Discovery Records all charted in nationwide jazz polls, including the highly regarded “Bill in Brazil” which he recorded during a stint in Rio De Janeiro.
Later he recorded several albums for Azica Records, including several with Holly Hofmann, the flutist, in a duo setting, and after 2000 started recording for Torii Records. There is a sextet session of Earl Zindars’ music, and the first recording of his Latin octet, Imaginacion, which reached #2 in nationwide radio jazz charts. Bill documented his working trio of ten years with "Live at Bernies" released on both CD and vinyl, a trio project with Brad Mehldau, bassist Darek Oles and former Bill Evans drummer Joe La Barbera. In the 1990s, Cunliffe became active in writing educational publications. His book "Jazz Keyboard Toolbox", published by Alfred Publications, is fast becoming a standard reference book in jazz, and he followed that up with a DVD and book on beginning jazz piano for Alfred.
His most recent publication for that company was a book of 50 Jazz Inventions, short pieces in the style of the Chopin Preludes and Bach Inventions, with a CD to accompany the player. His big band compositions are published by Kendor Music, and the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Press and his choral music by Santa Barbara Music Press. Bill is a Baldwin Pianos artist, and was Marian McPartland's guest on her famed "Piano Jazz" radio show in 1998. As a composer and arranger, Bill has been performed by many orchestras, including the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Illinois Philharmonic, the Reading (PA) Symphony, and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. Among his works are a Fantasy for piano jazz trio and orchestra, premiered in 2006 by the Manhattan School of Music Symphony, a festive overture, "Viva Mexico," premiered by the Illinois Philharmonic in 1999, and numerous works for big band, orchestra, chamber groups, and choir.
He has written extensively for television, and his music was recently heard in the Miramax feature "Comic Book-The Movie" the Susan Sarandon movie, "The Banger Sisters,” and the James Caan television show “Las Vegas.” He is currently associate professor of music at California State University Fullerton, and is composer in residence at All Saints Episcopal Church, in Pasadena, California. He also directed combos at the Henry Mancini Institute. Bill was the 1989 winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, and has received stipends from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2005 won the Philadelphia Jazz Composer competition sponsored by the American Composer Federation. In the nineties, he was nominated for two Emmys for best original song on the shows Another World and Guiding Light. In 2003 and 2006 he was nominated for Grammys, for his jazz arranging.
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