Grammy-nominated pianist Bill Cunliffe-whose compositions and arrangements have been performed by numerous orchestras and symphonies-recently scored his first feature film, The Northern Kingdom, which will premiere at the Syracuse International Film Festival on April 20. The inaugural screening will take place at the Redhouse Arts Center at 5:15 p.m.
Directed by Dorothy Lyman and produced by Melissa Sweeney, The Northern Kingdom features an ensemble cast (led by former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s daughter Linda) and is billed as a chamber piece in the tradition of independent and foreign films of the 1960s. Written by Nancy Fales Garrett, the film reveals the intertwining lives of three, disparate families who demonstrate the potential for growth. Cunliffe’s score exhibits orchestral and ethnic elements and showcases solo appearances by flutist Holly Hofmann (who has worked with Ray Brown, Frank Wess, Slide Hampton, James Moody and Cedar Walton), violinist Peter Kent (Shirley Horn, Gerald Albright) and guitarist John Chiodini (who used to play with Natalie Cole).
Cunliffe, who has been nominated in the Grammys twice for arranging (most recently for his Latin-jazz-influenced band Imaginacion), has written multiple works for big bands, orchestras and choirs. He won the hallowed Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Award in 1989 and is currently a composer-in-residence at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., combo director at the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles, and Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Cunliffe has recorded under his own name for Discovery, Azica and Torii, and has performed or collaborated with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Buddy Rich, Doc Severinsen, Joe La Barbera, Marian McPartland and Terell Stafford, among many others.