Album Review: Down & Dirty from Rich Willey’s Boptism Big Band
by Susan Frances
Artist: Rich Willey’s Boptism Big Band
Label: Wise Cat Records
Big Band leader Rich Willey conducts an ensemble of 20 musicians through a kaleidoscope of music, nuanced with shades of bop-tinged improv, swing, reggae, soft funk, Latin dance, power pop, and smooth jazz. The 12-track CD entitled Down & Dirty features original numbers writtien by Rich Willey with one cover, “Old Folks,” penned by Willard Robison and Dedette Lee Hill. The music is pure enjoyment from start to finish.
“Walter the Ferret” is a charming tune with frolicking horns, anchored by a funky rhythmic groove played by bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Peter Erskine. The intersecting lines of the horns are aurally pleasing and meticulously executed. The intervals of twinkling piano keys performed by Wally Minko on the title track add a sprightly feel to the music as Willey’s bass trumpet and special guest Thomas Hooten on piccolo trumpet infuse the tune with a matador-style surge. The strut of the saxophones will make audiences recall the stealthy gait of the horns made famous in the theme songs for the Pink Panther cartoons. The music is pure enjoyment, allowing the listener to sit back and be consumed by the pleasing sounds.
“Dancing Hippo,” like the title suggests, is easy on the ears as the heavy tone of the trombones is interlaced in the bouncy frills of the saxophones. The smooth jazz sonorous of the horns create a comfortable escape for the listener in “Ed Zachary Meets Gregory Peccary.” The title of the track might have a personal meaning but the music universally feels good on the senses. The band’s cover of “Old Folks” produces a reflective mood, adorned in Willey’s lounging bass trumpet with a casual stroll in the piano keys. Reggae-twinged horns frame “Not So Fast” in an island atmosphere, changing course in “Funk Heap” to a power pop fusion with a funky rhythmic pulse.
Produced by Dan Fornero, Down & Dirty is smooth and polished. The music of Rich Willey’s Boptism Band is the type that people of all ages like to listen to whether they admit to it or not. A student, a teacher, a leader, and a fan of Big Bands and other jazz-inspired forms, Rich Willey has carved out a niche for himself in the musical discipline.
Leader, trumpet, flugelhorn, and bass trumpet: Rich Willey
Saxophones: Dan Higgins, Brian Scanlon, Bob Sheppard, Jeff Driskill/Sal Lozano, Jay Mason
Trumpets: Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Rob Schaer/Mike Rocha, Tony Bonsera
Trombones: Alex Iles, Andy Martin, Steve Holtman, Bill Reichenbach
Keyboards: Wally Minko
Guitars: Andrew Synowiec
Bass: Edwin Livingston
Drums: Peter Erskine
Percussion: Joey De Leon
Very special guest Thomas Hooten on piccolo trumpet (“Down & Dirty”)