Rich Willey (rhymes with “Billy”), jazz trumpeter, composer and arranger, is firmly rooted in the jazz tradition. His trumpet and bass trumpet playing draw 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, yet accessible and listenable, combining a solid sense of swing with an overriding concern for melody.
Rich was active on the New York scene in the 1980s to the mid 1990s, handling a wide range of Latin and jazz gigs, most notably backing up legendary vocalist Mel Tormé.
In 2001 Rich launched Boptism Music to publish his books and his enormous accumulation of compositions and arrangements.
He has authored: The Ultimate Collection of Jazz Duets, Jazz Improv Materials Handbook Complete, The Melody Lingers On, The Ultimate Blues Workout, We’re Talkin’ Bebop, Trumpeter’s Guides to Major and Minor II-V-I’s, Improv Speed Builders Vol. 1–5, Rhythm Madness, Scale Force, Variations on Clarke’s Second Study Vols. 1, 2 & 3, Upside-Down Scales for Improvisation, The Ultimate Obstacle Course for Jazz Players, Focal Point, and Warm-Up Magic (Boptism Music).
Rich attended North Texas State University and has a B.A. in music education from the University of South Florida. He finished his masters of music in jazz performance in 2001 at the renowned Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Byron Stripling and Mike Abene. Rich spent the fall of 2001 on tour playing second trumpet — the challenging “jazz chair” — with trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau.
Between 2002 and 2007 Rich toured steadily with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow. A resident of Candler, NC, he taught at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Limestone College (Gaffney, SC), and Clemson University. Rich also directed the Spartanburg Jazz Ensemble and the short-lived Brevard Summer Music Camp Jazz Band.
Rich has performed with many great musicians and orchestras (in no particular order): Hank Mobley, Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau, the Cab Calloway Orchestra, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Ed Palermo Big Band, the Mel Tormé Big Band, Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Sammy Kaye Orchestra, Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Bogus Pomp with Napoleon Murphy Brock (Frank Zappa tribute band), John Swana, Al Vizzutti, Bob Haggart, Tim Hagans, Lionel Hampton, Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, Jack Petersen, Don Paterson, Bob Belden, Bob Mintzer, Paquito D’Rivera, John LaPorta, Ted Rosenthal, Ray Vega, Kenny Drew Jr., Conrad Herwig, Chris Potter, Brad Mehldau, Danny Gatton, Claudio Roditi, Dave Stahl, Bobby Sanabria, Rick Simerly, Debby Boone, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, Martin Short, Terry Vosbein, Arturo O’Farrill, Bobby Shew, Rufus Reid, James Moody, Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan, and Duffy Jackson. Rich has also played with many other musicians that nobody’s ever heard of. ☺
As Rich described his lyrical side to Bob Bernotas in his Windplayer interview, “That’s my early Paul Desmond influence. Somewhere between Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond, that’s where I like to find myself.”
Here’s a song Rich wrote for the love of his life, his beautiful bride Janet. Curious as it may seem, he calls it Song For Janet.
“Rich Willey is an inspiration. His lines bubble with bebop and his sound is smooth to the touch. Rich had me popping my fingers & begging for more!” — BYRON STRIPLING
“Rich displays originality, humor and a broad expanse of emotional depth in his writing and playing. Rich Willey is a young and inspired trumpeter/composer who is headed for high recognition in a world that is hungry for such ambition.”
— AL TRAINER, CAP records
“Rich Willey studied Jazz Composition with me and I feel I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. I really enjoyed the charts he did for his Gone With The Piggies CD, his original Eyes All For You, based on the changes to Body and Soul and done as a waltz, Gone With the Wind and even Melancholy Baby! I think you will enjoy this CD. Rich’s trumpet playing and his use of bass trumpet is especially refreshing. A no-nonsense player.”
— MICHAEL ABENE, NY, faculty member at Manhattan School of Music
“Rich’s arrangements are thoughtful and swinging. His bass trumpet sound and style really knocks me out.” — TED ROSENTHAL
“Rich Willey is a wonderful instrumentalist and jazz composer. Anything he puts on paper I trust 100%.” — CLAUDIO RODITI, Trumpeter, South Orange, NJ
“Rich plays beautiful jazz and I’ve always enjoyed playing with him. Sweet notes, melodic, swings hard . . . that’s Rich Willey!” — PAUL BABELAY (drummer, vibraphonist)
“Rich Willey is a damn fine musician…an excellent trumpet player with great chops, great ideas, excellent reading skills and amazing dexterity on both trumpet and bass trumpet. His singing is not too shabby either. He’s everybody’s pal!” — RUSS WILSON (bandleader, drummer, vocalist)
“Rich really sets the tone, so to speak, for any situation where he’s involved. He brings a level of musicianship and attitude to the bandstand that is inspiring for the audience and the other musicians in the band.” — MIKE HOLSTEIN (bassist)