RICH WILLEY BIO : trumpeter, bass trumpeter, tuba player, bandleader. As both a player and composer/arranger, Rich Willey is firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. His trumpet playing draws upon the wellspring of bebop with a contemporary freshness; brash and forceful, but also lyrical and warm. His compositions and arrangements are thoughtful and substantial, combining a solid sense of swing with an overriding concern for melody. Rich’s playing took on an even broader range of colors when he became one of only a select few jazz trumpeters to add the bass trumpet — a unique instrument with the range of a trombone but the bright timbre of a trumpet — to his musical palette.
A Florida native, Rich was active on the Philadelphia and New York scenes from the mid 1980’s to the early 1990’s, handling a wide range of Latin and jazz gigs, most notably backing up and recording with legendary vocalist Mel Tormé. He later returned to Florida where he earned a bachelors degree in music education from the University of South Florida, founded the Gulf Coast Jazz Society in Dunedin, and performed regularly in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Rich returned to NYC in 1999, earning his masters degree in jazz performance/trumpet at the renowned Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Byron Stripling, Garry Dial, and Mike Abene. He spent the fall of 2001 on tour playing second trumpet, the challenging jazz chair, with trumpet giant Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau.
Rich has released three CDs, among them Gone With the Piggies (CAP records), a striking collection of brilliantly conceived and impeccably performed tracks, including four of his own distinctive compositions. He is the owner of Boptism Music, which offers an impressive array of his over 30 books including jazz duets, jazz etudes, jazz improv development books, trumpet and trombone method books, as well as his jazz combo and big band arrangements. He is a devoted student of the late Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt, and has put back into print many of Reinhardt’s original method books.
Rich has performed with many great musicians, including Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Hank Mobley, Don Patterson, Buddy Morrow, Bob Haggart, Dick Hyman, Claudio Roditi, Chris Potter, Conrad Herwig, John Swana, Bob Mintzer, Kenny Drew Jr., Brad Mehldau, Mel Torme, Bobby Sanabria, Harry Allen, Bill Mobley, Dave Stahl, Jack Jones, Shirley Jones, The Inkspots, Skitch Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Tony Randall, Andrea McCardle, Debby Boone, and many others.
Rich has been leading bands since 1986. In its present-day incarnation, The Rich Willey Jazz Bands have played at Asheville’s Bele Chere, Greenville’s Jazz on Main Street and Artisphere, UNC-Asheville’s Concert on the Quad series, Furman University’s Concerts By The Lake series, along with many other venues, private gigs and educational settings.
Rich and his wife Janet live just outside of beautiful Asheville, NC, where he now practices trumpet, bass trumpet and tuba incessantly, still writes and arranges music and performs regularly throughout the southeast as a freelance musician, bandleader and clinician.