Rich Willey

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About Rich Willey

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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, yet always accessible and listenable, combining a solid sense of swing with an overriding concern for melody. During the 1980s, Rich’s playing took on an even broader range of colors when he became one of only a select few jazz trumpeters to add to his arsenal 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 New York scene from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, handling a wide range of Latin and jazz gigs, most notably backing up and recording with legendary vocalist Mel Tormé. He returned to Florida for a spell, where he continued his musical studies, founded the Gulf Coast Jazz Society in Dunedin, and performed regularly in the Greater Tampa Bay area.

Rich is the author of the following, published by Boptism Music Publishing:
• The Ultimate Collection of Jazz Duets
• Jazz Improv Materials Handbook Complete, a melodic approach to jazz improvisation
• The Melody Lingers On ­ 24 Melodic Jazz Solos
• The Ultimate Blues Workout
• FocalPoint ­ a centered approach to embouchure development for trumpet and trombone
• Scale Force
• Rhythm Madness
• Trumpeter’s Guide to Major and Minor II-V-I’s in Twelve Keys
• We're Talking Bebop
• Upside-Down Scales for Improvisation
• Variations on Clarke's Second Study, Volumes 1 and 2

Rich returned to NYC in 1999, enrolling in the Masters in Jazz Performance program at the renowned Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Byron Stripling and Mike Abene. He earned his master’s degree in May 2001 and spent the fall of that year on tour playing second trumpet ­ the challenging “jazz chair” ­ with trumpet giant 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 freelance author/jazz journalist-historian Bob Bernotas and their new company, Boptism Music Publishing.

In 2002 Rich began making tours with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow and relocated to beautiful Asheville, NC, where he teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. 2002 also launched Rich into the role of jazz clinician. Rich continues to tour with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, performing with them at the 55th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Rich is now the director of the Spartanburg Jazz Ensemble.

Rich Willey joined the JazzTimes community on Apr 11, 2009