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.