Rich Perry playing the blues……..

Here’s a great video of Rich Perry playing a blues all by himself. Rich is one of my favorite players. I remember when I first heard him years ago, I really wasn’t that into him. Back then I was into Michael Brecker, Bob Berg and guys like that. I heard musicians talking about Rich Perry and I thought “I have to check this guy out, he must be burnin”. I was a bit dissapointed when I first heard him. He was too laid back and relaxed. I wanted to hear this burnin’ rippin tenor solo and Rich just was hangin out playing this solo that he wanted to play. I didn’t get the impression that he was trying to impress anyone or even that he felt any need or inclination to meet anyones expectations. He was just playing and it was all about the music and the moment. I was a bit intrigued by this approach to playing.

As the years have gone by, I have collected many of the albums he has played on. I would say that without a doubt I probably listen to him the most. He has a style and sound that is all his own and you won’t find him playing many of the standard jazz licks everyone else is playing over and over (although he plays many of the standard jazz tunes) As a matter of fact, I very rarely hear him play what I consider a lick or pattern. It seems to me to be more about playing a concept or idea more than licks and patterns. That’s why I love listening to him so much. As you get older and have listened to recording after recording you tend to get a preconceived idea of where a solo is going or what the soloist will do next. If I anticipate where they are going too many times I find myself getting bored with what I’m listening to. I don’t find that happening with Rich’s playing. He’s always playing rhythms and notes that I didn’t see coming. This is what I like the most about his playing. Unlike many other artists out there that just play outside to be unique or original and totally lose the melody, I find Rich’s playing always melodic. He’s always thinking about the melody and the melodic statement to my ears.

The other thing that is unique to Mr. Perry’s playing is his use of rhythm. He plays around with odd rhythms while improvising over common standards. At first it caught me off guard because I wasn’t used to it but as I listened o him more and more I developed a better feeling and understanding of how he was playing with the rhythms as he improvised. As you listen to his solos you will notice a certain rhythmic freedom as well as harmonic freedom that many young improvisers lack.

In this video he is playing over a blues progression all by his lonesome. Just him and a big auditorium. The first thing I noticed is how great his sound is. It just fills the room up but it isn’t loud and obnoxious. It’s subtle and textured. Each note has a voice and sound of it’s own and each note sounds like it’s being shaped just for that moment to me.

Also listen to his ideas and lines. They are so unique and original that at the end he asks the room full of students what he was playing over and they don’t know. I’m surprised they didn’t know that but anyways………. listen to how melodic he is? The lines he is playing are beautiful and memorable in my opinion. They flow from one to another effortlessly. He’s not trying to Wow or impress the crowd for the sake of ego. He’s trying to create and play something special. To me, that is highest achievement for a jazz artist.

One of my favorite times to listen to Rich’s music is when I go to bed. I know it might sound weird but usually I stay up late and when I go to bed my mind is full of stuff. I’m thinking about this project or that project. This bill or that appointment. I can just lie there and toss and turn thinking. I love to put on some Rich Perry on my ipod,put on my ear phones and just be taken away from all that thinking. Usually, a short time later I have taken out my ear phones and then fall asleep easily. Why does that happen? Well for me, I think it’s a mix of the improvisation being interesting enough to distract me from my thoughts yet mellow and beautiful enough to relax me. I love that. Enough of all this……………I’m going to put on some Rich Perry and go to bed. See you tomorrow.

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Wow, Steve, I loved this post about Rich Perry, it’s so reflective and inspirational!

  2. Avatar Paul Harper says

    Great thoughts regarding Rich’s playing. I’ve been a huge fan of Rich for 20 or so years. Heard him long ago at the Vanguard and met him and kind of got to know him. I took a couple of lessons with him and was so impressed with his musicality, and his humbleness. Your comments are all right on. What really jumped out to me was your comment about listening to Rich so much. I’m quite certain that I’ve spent more time listening to him than any other player. I’ll get into someone else for a while, but I always go back to Mr Perry. No cliches, a beautiful sound, and an overall musical voice that is, to my thinking, utterly unique. He’s a great inspiration.

  3. Avatar Dayton Eckerson says

    Thanks for another great post. You’re right, Rich Perry’s sound is really great. I’ll have to get more of his recordings to check out. Regarding your comment about players with interesting rhythmic approaches, I wanted to suggest you listen to one of our local legends down here in D.C.: Jeff Antoniuk. Jeff is a UNT graduate with advanced degrees in saxophone performance and West African Ethnomusicology. His interest in African rhythms began during his childhood, part of which he spent Africa. Jeff can play the changes with the best of them, but what really sets him apart in my book is his use of rhythm. Many times during his solos his rhythmic ideas are so complex that I totally lose track of the form, yet he always lands on his feet. Check him out when you get a chance: Another player whose rhythm slays me is the piano player Bill Dobbins, a professor at the Eastman School. He plays these long polyrhythmic pattens over 4/4 time which sound absolutely amazing.

  4. Coool, nice minor harmonics, and very well inspired by Sonny Rollins !!!

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