One Track Mind: Bill Cunliffe Trio, “Blue Notes” from River Edge, New Jersey (2013)

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1989 Monk Competition winner Bill Cunliffe is a diversely skilled pianist who puts his range to use in a variety of settings, from Latin jazz, to fusion to fruitful collaborations of straight ahead jazz. But I see him mostly as one of the most solid, no-frills post-bop pianists on the scene over the last twenty or so years.

That’s why when Mort Weiss went looking for a piano partner for his clarinet/piano small combo project that was ultimately titled Meet Bill Cunliffe, he knew he had his man in Cunliffe.

For Cunliffe’s own latest project, his aim was simply to get together and play mainstream jazz with two guys with whom he felt a great rapport: bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner. River Edge, New Jersey is just three crack jazz musicians convening to play a set of original and cover numbers in the polished, tightly meshed post-bop fashion.

One of Cunliffe’s own tunes is a tribute to his longtime friend Bruce Paulson, a noted L.A. trombonist and sought-after session player. “Blue Notes” isn’t really blues, but Cunliffe uses blues as a foundation to build a strong, cultivated harmony and with the help of his nimble rhythm section, slips in a soft but solid swing. After stating this mannered theme, Cunliffe solos by applying a light touch that hews close to that sweet melody with the left hand, complementing a precise, flawless right hand. Wind’s following bass solo is likewise understated but assured.

In a jazz world where experimentation is paramount to a significant section of it, we still need guys to remind us that the things that made jazz beautiful decades ago still very much do so today. It’s hard to find jazz currently that sounds any prettier than Bill Cunliffe’s.

River Edge, New Jersey went on sale April 30 by Azica Records. Visit Bill Cunliffe’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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