New Faculty – Bill Cunliffe


Jazz Port Townsend is proud to announce the addition of a new faculty member for the arranging track at this year’s festival.

Venerable composer, arranger and jazz pianist Bill Cunliffe is joining the Jazz Port Townsend faculty to teach arranging, in place of Bill Holman, who was forced to step down due to a family emergency.  Holman will appear on Saturday with the Centrum Faculty All-Star Big Band, and lead them in his world-premiere composition, “Northwest Passages,” featuring clarinet soloist Grammy-winner Paquito D’Rivera.

Grammy winner Bill Cunliffe began playing the piano at 8 and discovered jazz at 20 at Duke University, studying with Mary Lou Williams. He started composing jazz and big band music at 24 while studying jazz piano at the Eastman School of Music. After winning two Down Beat Awards for composing and arranging, he went on the road with drummer Buddy Rich as pianist and arranger, touring Europe with Frank Sinatra. He later performed with Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer, Woody Shaw and James Moody. In 1989 he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

Cunliffe has received four Grammy nominations for his composing and arranging. His arrangements for big band are widely acclaimed and have been performed by ensembles all over the world. In 2010 he received a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his “West Side Story Medley” for big band, on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson, ” released by Resonance Records. Cunliffe’s concerto for jazz trumpet, Latin band and symphony orchestra, “fourth stream … La Banda,” is a Grammy nominee for Best Instrumental Composition.

Late in life, Cunliffe turned to composing concert music, which has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “unusual — but highly effective,” and “a compelling, improvisationally atmospheric vision.” His choral music has been performed by well-known groups nationwide, and his orchestral music has been performed by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, the Knox/Galesburg (Illinois) Symphony, the Cincinnati and Pasadena Pops orchestras and the Illinois Philharmonic. His Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, written for Pacific Symphony principal tubist Jim Self, will premiere with the U.S. Army Orchestra in January 2011.