Rich Willey Boptism Big Band
by Tom Haugen
Down & Dirty
Wise Cat, 2019
Rich Willey has some deep roots in the jazz scene, going back to the early ‘80s in Philadelphia and New York, and after returning to his home state of Florida to continue his education he went back on tour and released some solo work.
Here, Willey has 11 of his compositions scored for an 18 piece big band, where many genres are touched upon and several solos are unleashed in this 70+ minute listen where Willey takes up trumpet, bass trumpet and flugelhorn.
“Boogie Beast” starts the listen with a big presence, where plenty of horns infiltrate the playful setting of reggae influence, and this continues to the busy, cinematic feel of the soaring “Down & Dirty”.
Elsewhere, “Eyes All For You” brings a bit of mystery to the sophistication, while “Dancing Hippo” starts with warm keys and builds into a fun atmosphere you certainly will want to move your body to.
Late in the listen, “Little Treasures” recruits some Latin flavor to the equation, and “Funk Heap” indeed brings heaps of funk to the soulful energy that even jams in a guitar solo. The album ends on “But For The Grace Of God”, where an orchestral presence illuminates the exit as solos from piano and flugelhorn are in important attendance.
Big band sounds just don’t much better than this, and Willey’s ability to steer the ship so meticulously is certainly much of this reason why Down & Dirty will be one of the best jazz records this year.
Travels well with: Wayne Bergeron– Plays Well With Others; Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass– Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.