Celebrating the music of jazz pianist Bill Clifton
Bill Clifton - Red Shadows
The Making of Red Shadows - Michael F. Clifton
Welcome to billcliftonpiano.com and thanks for dropping-in.
I became interested in Bill Clifton's career and music as a youngster, when my father would occasionally make reference to his "famous" musician cousin who lived in New York City and played piano on television. Bill, he explained, was the only child of my great uncle W. Frank Clifton. Uncle Frank held a very special position in our family's mythology. He was the eldest child from my grandfather's generation and recognized by all "Toronto" Cliftons as the patriarch of the family.
Uncle Frank was a big man, he lived in a big, beautiful house, drove a big, expensive car and smoked big cigars. In fact, everything about Uncle Frank was big. His story had a lot of the Horatio Alger about it. He had overcome some very steep challenges in his youth and become a successful businessman, philanthropist and long-serving alderman at Toronto city hall. The fact that his son was a successful musician in far away NYC just made the whole thing seem that much more exotic. I never did get to see or hear Bill Clifton on television back then, but my interest in him was piqued.
I developed a passion for music early on, largely as a result of seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Our household was not a musical one, but my parents both showed a casual appreciation of music on the radio. Before long I was playing the drums in grade school "pop" combos and saving every penny to buy as many records as I could get my hands on..Music had become an obsession. Even back then, I was on the lookout for a record with Bill Clifton on piano. My father suggested the existence of a 78rpm recording of The Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Bill featured on "Rhapsody In Blue" and that became my target. Eventually, after university, I fell into music retail in Toronto, managing initially and then owning/operating a jazz and blues specialty, record and CD shoppe. And I never did find that Whiteman 78.
My initial breakthrough in building a Bill Clifton collection was the reissue box set "The Columbia Jazz Piano Moods Sessions", released by the wonderful Mosaic Record label a few years ago. Not only had Mosaic reissued Bill Clifton's only album as a leader, as part of Columbia Records "Piano Moods" 10in. series, there were also some very flattering comments about Bill Clifton's playing by a very respected jazz piano scholar in the enclosed liner notes. Bill, it said, "was an early and important influence" on the great jazz pianist Bill Evans. Now I was really stoked. I began scouring the internet for any further evidence of Bill's musical career. The Oscar Peterson autobiography "A Jazz Odyssey" was also published around this time, with some very laudatory and poignant comments from Oscar about his friend, Bill Clifton. A clearer picture was emerging of my late cousin and the extraordinary respect he commanded almost fifty years after his death.
I've developed a nice library of Bill Clifton's recorded performances with some of the music world's most important voices. His understated work with Frank Sinatra on Columbia Records "The Voice Of Frank Sinatra", his lush, jazzy arrangements and keyboard seductions on the Ilene Woods LP "It's Late", his rollicking, bluesy accompaniment for Jack Teagarden's historic, 1944 performance of "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight" from the Midnight At V-Disc CD reissue and much more.
Finding and issuing the "Red Shadows" recordings is a dream come true and the result of years of personal research. I'd like to say a special thank- you to Richard Berghegen, who has been instrumental in the creation of the "Red Shadows" CD package and also the aesthetic of the billcliftonpiano.com website. Richard understands my passion for the subject and has brought his own considerable talents to the project as well as a fresh perspective on exposing music in the new paradigm.
I hope you enjoy the various features of the site and please come and see us again, as more content will be added in the very near future.
Sincerely, Michael F. Clifton Cliftone Records