When I was in New York I played a few gigs a rehearsal big band that was run by a Russian composer/arranger/pianist. Like many bands of this type there was a rehearsal book and a gig book. The rehearsal book was all original and very challenging music written by the band leader and the gig book was all classic stock big band arrangements. The band leader got great NYC players to read through his original charts regularly by offering well paying black tie big band gigs once in a while. The second tenor player on this band was a sloppy forty-something guy named Rich Perry. Being fairly new on the NYC scene, I had no idea what kind of player Rich since he gave almost all of his solos away. When he did blow he sounded very abstract and loose. He really seemed not to give a shit about what he sounded (or looked) like, even though he sounded great. He just wasn't trying to impress anyone (like the rest of the was). I found out later that Rich was a mainstay in the Monday night Village Vanguard band (formerly the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band). His playing really intrigued me at the time because he sounded so unique and advanced, but I never got to hear really stretch out. A friend turned me on to a few of his recordings recently; 'Live at Eastman' and 'What is This?'. I've been listening to them for days now. I haven't had my ears opened up so much by a player in quite a while. Rich swings like a madman and his sound is huge and dark, yet very controlled. One reviewer wrote that Rick was "lackadaisical and bohemian". He is loose and snaky, taking a while to build his solos to fever pitch. When he does get to full throttle he tears it up as hard as anyone alive. He is so incredibly natural sounding, by this I mean that he never sounds contrived or forced. Like his messy hair, his lines aren't sanitized for the amateur listener. Rich never plays down to the audience, never compromising his advanced harmonic and rhythmic concepts in favor of wide accesibility. In short he is the musicians musician. Even though he stays on the cutting edge Rich's sound is always musical and melodic. He just always approaches melodic phrases from an extremely oblique angle. I've really can't think of a badder cat that flies so low under the radar. Garzone is a pop star compared to Ritchie. I don't see this changing in the future since fame and fortune are obviously not motivating factors for Mr. Perry. For the moment at least, Rich Perry is my favorite tenor player alive. I just ordered his CD East of the Sun and West of 2nd Avenue and a trio recording called Beautiful Love. Check out these links to hear some short sound clips of Rich chewing up standards into tiny little pieces.