b. David John Cliff, 25 June 1944, Hexham, Northumberland, England. Cliff began playing guitar in his early teens, playing in and around Newcastle upon Tyne, where he was raised. He became interested in jazz and played with various groups, gigging with artists such as George Chisholm, before enrolling at the Leeds College of Music. On graduation from LCM, Cliff moved to London where he was soon working with Peter Ind and through this association he toured with visiting jazz musicians of the highest calibre, including Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. He then became a member of Tommy Chase’s hard bop band. Cliff worked with many other musicians in the 70s and 80s, among them Chas Burchell, Ray Manderson, with whom he was co-leader of a small group, Bob Wilber and Bernie Cash, performing in the latter’s Great Jazz Solos Revisited touring package. In the 80s, Cliff added teaching to his activities, eventually being appointed to a teaching post at Trinity College, Wavendon. Nevertheless, he continued to perform extensively through this decade and into the 90s. In these years he worked with a seemingly endless list of musicians, including Bruce Turner, Alan Barnes (another LCM graduate), Georgie Fame, Harry Allen, Kenny Davern and Humphrey Lyttelton.
During the 90s, Cliff made numerous albums as sideman but also co-led a touring and recording band with tenor saxophonist Geoff Simkins. He also made several albums as leader, collaborating with fellow guitarist Howard Alden and using the cream of sidemen, including Dave Green and Allan Ganley. Cliff’s playing of the electric guitar is clean-cut and although he possesses great technical skills he is frequently content to take a quietly supportive role to the benefit of the artists he accompanies. When he does use his manifold skills, he does so with subtle intelligence. When he solos, he shows that he is an excellent full-toned and eloquent player and is able to fully realise the most challenging of concepts.