In addition, Bill has been a prized accompanist and collaborator for several vocalists, including most famously Tony Bennett with whom Bill recorded The Silver Lining (songs of Jerome Kern) and Love Is Here to Stay(songs of Gershwin with Diana Krall). Lately, Bill has been performing in a stripped-down duo format with fellow The Jazz Cruise ’23artist Dee Dee Bridgewater at theaters, clubs and festivals all over the world. When one calls out a tune and the other nods and jumps right in, it reminds us of the on-stage magic that happens so often on The Jazz Cruise. (Perhaps we will see the duo perform on the ’23 sailing?)
A respected jazz educator, Bill serves as the Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University, a prestigious program founded in 1973. He follows in the footsteps of previous directors (and jazz greats) Thad Jones, Rufus Reid, James Williams and Mulgrew Miller.
If that’s not enough versatility for you, then consider that Bill also curates and produces the Jazz in July Festival at the historic 92nd Street Y in New York City, an annual event originally founded in 1984 by Dick Hyman who turned the artistic director reins over to Bill in 2004. “All I’m trying to do is find way to create a red carpet for musicians, while making something that’s entertaining for the audience,” he explained about his vision for the event. “At the same time, we’re embracing all kinds of different music in unique combinations that you won’t see anywhere else.” Last year’s Jazz in July Festival featured Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves. This year’s features a stellar lineup of Joshua Redman, Aaron Diehl, Kenny Barron, Samara Joy, Warren Wolf, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Mike Stern and Nicole Glover.
When asked about returning to perform on The Jazz Cruise, Bill said: “What I love most about The Jazz Cruise is the sense of community. To spend a week with some of my best friends and extended musical family is a joy. At this point we all have a history together, and it gives us a chance to spend more time… valuable time… in the presence of one another. Like a floating city filled with music where the audiences are warm and our art is plentiful and celebrated…and then, there’s the beauty of the sea and the sky! The Jazz Cruise is a singular experience.”
(This note was written by Lee Mergner, who serves as a Jazz Consultant for Jazz Cruises. Feel free to share your thoughts about his article by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org)