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Rich Willey

A Florida native who landed in North Carolina in 2002, Rich Willey (rhymes with “Billy”) has been around the block, including playing in the 24th Infantry Division Band in the U.S. Army, attending North Texas State University from 1978–1981, then three years cutting his teeth in the jazz clubs in Philadelphia prior to three years in Atlantic City and then seven years in northern New Jersey across the river from New York City. Rich started calling his bands Boptism in 1986 in New Jersey and in New York, playing in such venues as Birdland, The West End Gate, The Angry Squire and The New York Brass Conference. After going back to school from 1995 through 2001, getting a bachelors from the University of South Florida in Tampa and then a masters at the Manhattan School of Music, Rich worked again in New York City until going on the road for a tour with Maynard Ferguson right after 9/11/2001.

Since establishing residency in North Carolina, between tours with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow, Rich taught at the college level for years at such schools as UNC-Asheville, Clemson University, Limestone College and Gardner-Webb University. In 2001 Rich founded Boptism Music, a publishing company that distributes materials he wrote while teaching as well as his arrangements and original compositions. He and his wife Janet continue running Boptism Music, and Rich freelances on trumpet and bass trumpet throughout the Western Carolina region. Between recording sessions, Rich continues to compose music, write books, practice his trumpet, his bass trumpet, and for nearly three years now his tuba.

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 Tormé, 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.


John Phillip Sousa Award, 1973


Olds Trumpet with Mark Curry mouthpiece

Mt. Vernon Bach Bass Trumpet with Bach mouthpiece

Conn Valve Trombone with Bach mouthpiece

Miraphone Tuba with Helleberg mouthpiece

Johan Berglund EVI with Darren Barrett mouthpiece


Album Review

Rich Willey: Puttin' On the Ritz

Read "Puttin' On the Ritz" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

When Irving Berlin wrote “Puttin' On the Ritz" in 1927 on a unique “transposing piano" tuned to his preferred key of F#, little could he ever know that one day, among the myriad numbers of covers of the tune, that it would title an album that features, among other attractions, Electronic Voice Instrument “wah-wah" solos. Putting that on hold, Rich Willey's effort apes the concept of that tune as an elegant effort. “Puttin' On the Ritz" offers ...

Album Review

Rich Willey Boptism Funk Band: Conspiracy

Read "Conspiracy" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

Both before and after his first terrific recording as leader--Gone with the Piggies (Consolidated Artists Productions, 1988)--Asheville, North Carolina-based Rich Willey has been a very busy jazzman. During that period, Willey spent dues-playing time with Philly Phenoms, New York Bopsters, did a stint with the great Maynard Ferguson, authored dozens of well-acclaimed trumpet and jazz improv books, wrote scores of original tunes, taught and, in his spare time, performed locally. However, within the last year he has released two outstanding ...

Album Review

Rich Willey: Down & Dirty

Read "Down & Dirty" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

Back in 2001, trumpeter/composer/educator Rich Willey released a critically acclaimed album titled Gone with the Piggies (CAP Records). As a result, a savvy audience has followed him cult-like ever since. With Down and Dirty, the former Maynard Ferguson standout delivers a bacchanalia presentation both as player and composer, surrounded by a unit of Los Angeles' finest players and world- class arrangers. There are marvelously diverse big band grooves here that Willey and his jazz merchants are selling. ...

Album Review

Rich Willey's Boptism Big Band: Down & Dirty

Read "Down & Dirty" reviewed by Jack Bowers

What's in a name? While that maxim remains a matter for debate, don't let this particular name mislead you. In the parlance of trumpeter Rich Willey's Los Angeles-based Boptism Big Band, Down & Dirty translates into well-scrubbed & swinging. There's really no better way to describe the performance of eleven of Willey's wide-ranging compositions and one standard ("Old Folks") by an ensemble comprising many of southern California's foremost jazz musicians who not only master but amplify superlative charts by Gordon ...

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“Rich Willey is an inspiration. His lines bubble . . . his sound is smooth to the touch. Rich had me popping my fingers and begging for more!” — BYRON STRIPLING, recording and performing artist, former lead trumpeter and soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra

“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

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Primary Instrument




Willing to teach

Intermediate to advanced



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

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Paul Desmond
saxophone, alto
Tom Harrell
Hank Mobley
saxophone, tenor
Charlie Parker
saxophone, alto
Frank Zappa
guitar, electric



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Silencing The Noise

ARC - Artists Recording Collective


Puttin' On the Ritz

Boptism Music


Down & Dirty

Wise Cat Records



Wise Cat Records


Gone With The Piggies

Consolidated Artists Productions


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