Born: December 13, 1955 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
As both a player and composer, Rich Willey 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 always 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. He is the author of I’d Rather Be Boppin’ -- 24 Jazz Duets, Volumes 1, 2 & 3 (Boptism Music Publishing), Home Cookin’ Fer Young ‘Uns -- 24 Dixie Jazz Duets, and The Melody Lingers On -- 24 Melodic Jazz Solos, companion to Vol.1 of his bop duets (Boptism Music Publishing).
Rich has a B.A. in music education from the University of South Florida. He finished his M.M. 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.
Also in 2001, Rich and his quintet recorded Gone With the Piggies (Consolidated Artists Productions CAP962), a striking collection of brilliantly conceived and impeccably performed tracks, including four of his own distinctive compositions. 2001 also saw the formation of the partnership between Rich Willey and Bob Bernotas and their new company, Boptism Music Publishing.
Since 2002 Rich has toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow. A resident of Candler, NC, since 2002, he teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, stays busy as a freelance musician and bandleader, and directs the jazz band at Brevard Music Center.
Rich has performed with many great musicians, including Lionel Hampton, Hank Mobley, Don Patterson, Buddy Morrow, Jack Peterson, Bob Haggart, Dick Hyman, Rosemary Clooney, John LaPorta, Carl Saunders, Claudio Roditi, Chris Potter, Conrad Herwig, Johnny Coles, Jon Gordon, Tim Hagans, Bob Belden, Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Vega, Scott Wendholt, Joel Frahm, Derek Smith, James Spaulding, John Hart, Johnny Varro, Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, John Swana, Bob Mintzer, Ernie Watts, Kenny Drew Jr., Cecil Bridgewater, John Bunch, Bobby Rosengarden, Jeff Rupert, Lou Stellute, Jerry Jerome, John Lamb, Greg Gisbert, Larry Camp, Brad Mehldau, Joe Farnsworth, John Webber, Napoleon Murphy Brock, The Clayton Brothers, John DiMartino, John Walsh, Mel Tormé, Bobby Sanabria, Ed Palermo Big Band, Don Lamond, Harry Allen, Ron McClure, John Eckert, Dave Stahl, Chip McNeill, Dick Hafer, Jack Jones, Shirley Jones, The Inkspots, Mitch Miller, Skitch Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Tony Randall, Andrea McCardle, John Colianni, and many, many others.
“Rich Willey’s trumpet playing and his use of bass trumpet is especially refreshing. A no-nonsense player.” -- MICHAEL ABENE, jazz pianist, arranger, composer, faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, NYC
“Rich’s arrangements are thoughtful and swinging. His bass trumpet sound and style really knocks me out.” -- TED ROSENTHAL, jazz pianist, clinician, faculty member at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music
“Rich is not only a prodigious trumpet talent but also a remarkable composer and arranger.” -- RICK SIMERLY, Conn/Selmer artist, Jamey Aebersold clinician
“I'll take a couple moments to talk about Rich Willey. For those of you who were, like me, asking yourself if this guy can actually play, let me assure you - HE PLAYS! Rich was a soloist several times during the concert and came out with well-thought ideas and an individual style that shows he is his own player. His sound was free, and seemed to have no problem getting the trumpet to convey the ideas he had. The guy is the real deal - so you young players (and comeback players) take note when he posts to TPIN (Trumpet Players International Network)! He is out there doing it! The hall was dead, so I had trouble hearing the individual members of the band well during soli sections, but Rich seemed to be holding his own with some challenging stuff!” -- TIM PHILLIPS, lead trumpeter, performing artist
“I absolutely will endorse Rich and recommend him highly. He's a consummate gentleman, a great player, an excellent instructor and has a wonderful sense of humor. I feel quite privileged to be able to know him and call him a friend.” -- BILL MIRRIELEES, Asbury Brass Ensemble, Wild Bunch Dixieland Jazz Band, Ovation Arts Orchestra
“Rich Willey has assembled a terrific group of musicians to perform a well chosen as well as brilliantly performed repertoire of standards and original music. 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 this 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.” -- MICHAEL ABENE, arranger, composer, faculty member at Manhattan School of Music
“Rich Willey is a wonderful instrumentalist and jazz composer.” -- CLAUDIO RODITI, world-renowned trumpeter, composer, recording artist
Rich Willey and Boptism (1998)
Boptism: New York Debut (1991)
Mel Tormé: The Great American Songbook (1992)
Seven Mary Three: Rock Crown (1999)
Bogus Pomp: A Pungent, Steaming Affair (2000)
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
1999–2001: Manhattan School of Music, Masters degree in Jazz Performance/Trumpet, May 2001, 3.84 GPA
1996–99: University of South Florida; graduated cum distinction from College of Fine Arts, May ‘99, 3.74 GPA, B.A. in Music Ed
1995–96: St. Petersburg Junior College, Associate of Arts Degree
1989–90: BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, studied with Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Albam
1979: Jamey Aebersold Winter Jazz Clinic in Dallas, TX, studied with David Baker, Jack Petersen
1978-86: Studied privately with Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt, Philadelphia, PA, inventor of the Pivot System
1974: U.S. Navy School of Music (Army Element), accelerated through in 3 months with 3.30 rating
1973: Graduated from Clearwater High School, John Philip Sousa Award
Hours & Rates available upon request.