As a bandleader, Rich Willey has presented music at functions and events with a quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, nonet, dectet and even a sixteen-piece big band. Rich’s jazz bands are versatile, playing latin, swing, dixieland, or bebop styles and employ some of the best players in the Asheville and Western North Carolina region.
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.
Rich and his quintet recorded Gone With the Piggies (Consolidated Artists Productions CAP962) in 2001, a striking collection of brilliantly conceived and impeccably performed tracks, including four of his own distinctive compositions.