Song of the Day: Rich Willey, “Poor Butterfly”

Rich Willey blurs that line between tradition and innovation in his take on “Poor Butterfly” from his latest album.

Over the years, trumpeter/composer Rich Willey has played and collaborated with many of the greats, including Lionel Hampton, Chris Potter, Mel Torme and many more. Aside from being a veteran sideman, he regularly leads exciting projects of his own, the latest of which is his recently-released new album, Puttin’ on the Ritz, out on his own Boptism label. The record is a formidable showcase that encapsulates what he does best in the form of an inspired program of three originals and eight covers, arranged by Willey for four horns, all of which he plays.

The title of the album appears to refer to a style that Willey has perfected over the years, steeped in tradition and drawing on the wellspring of jazz past with contemporary freshness and idiosyncratic flourishes. This is clear from the beginning, opening via his playful take on “Poor Butterfly,” a Raymond Hubbell composition that was popularized by such iconic artists as Sarah Vaughan and Cannonball Adderley. While the composition dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, it sounds absolutely contemporary, fun and positively swinging at the hands of Willey.

The track is enriched by a string arrangement from collaborator Carey Deadman and even includes a captivating solo by Willey, further pointing to a blurring of that line between tradition and innovation. Along with other tracks on Puttin’ on the Ritz, this take on “Poor Butterfly” (which you can hear via the player below) captures the essence of Willey’s artistic identity. As he explains via a press release: “My concept of jazz and jazz improvisation has to do with communicating with the audience. I hope to always be ‘telling a story’ via my writing and playing.”

Rich Willey’s new album, Puttin’ on the Ritz, is available now on Boptism Music. Order it here.

Like this article?  Get more when you subscribe.

Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.

The Authoritative Voice in Jazz