Meet Richard Boulger
On his critically acclaimed 2007 recording Blues Twilight, Richard Boulger included in his liner notes a quote from his teacher and longtime friend, the legendary Freddie Hubbard, who called the project by the renowned trumpeter and flugelhorn player “truly inspirational.” Hubbard passed away late in 2008, but there’s no doubt he would use the same words to describe his protégée’s latest collection. While the jazz electronica, old school funk and world music fusion Boulger creates with keyboardist Dario Boente on his latest collection marks a dramatic shift from his hard bop leanings of the past, Boulger pays homage even more directly to Hubbard, using a phone message from the trumpet great as the intro to the opening title track. Hubbard’s words say it all: “Things are Lookin Up.”
Boulger brings a diverse, colorful history as a sideman and recording artist to his latest sonic venture. In addition to Blues Twilight
and his 1999 debut The Calling
(a release on the trumpeter’s own b-1 music label featuring trumpeter Eddie Henderson
), the multi-talented performer
( has recorded with R&B singer Joe and a range of jazz luminaries, including John Hicks, Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, Steve Davis, Dennis Irwin, Anthony Wonsey, David Schnitter and -Randy Brecker
, a longtime fan of Boulger’s “big fat sound, great chops and most importantly lots of soul.” In 2001, Boulger began an extensive two year stint touring with Gregg Allman
, a run that included his work as a featured soloist on The Allman Brothers Band’s double DVD set Live at the Beacon Theatre.
An active part of the jazz scene for years in his adopted hometown of NYC, Boulger has done numerous clubs, concerts, recordings and festivals as part of drummer Victor Jones’ Cultureversey
, a group that blends hip hop, urban soul, modern jazz and funk. The trumpeter had been experimenting with pads and synth sounds since he began working on music with a computer in the early 2000s, but his deeper immersion into the possibilities of jazz in an electronic setting began when he met Boente when the two were on tour with Jones in South Korea in 2004.
Boulger enjoyed the way the trio mixed drums and synth with his trumpet and flugelhorn and was later wowed by a video Boente did for his jazz electronica song “Cara a cara.” “If it’s got soul, I’m into it,” Boulger says. “I loved the array of sounds Dario created with his keyboards. So over the years I started playing around with different patches and beats on my computer and considered this period part of a learning curve. I’m very intuitive when it comes to creating music, but after recording Blues Twilight, I knew that my next project would incorporate all of these exciting new influences.
“The tracks that evolved into Lookin Up
started organically, with simple melodies coming to me and then creating these sonic worlds around them with Dario. Usually everything begins with a basic motif. Having the time and the resources to get every detail just right is a challenge for an independent artist, and I fully appreciate the support given to me by my sister Carolyn, her husband Bill Karlson and my life partner Sarah French so that I could pursue this project that I became so passionate about.”
Although Boulger put Lookin Up together with songs he wrote and recorded over an extended two year period, the final tracking and the titles he chose lend themselves perfectly to using groove, atmosphere and funky, improvisational contemporary jazz to create a message of hope and global harmony. Weaving the names of the songs into a narrative, he says: “Lookin Up,” I see “August Blue”…”Care,” feel and live “A Prayer for Peace. “Be One” and “You Can Be” “Somebody’s Dream.” “For Now,” we watch the “Sunrise,” and a new day…at last we are “One People One World.”
In addition to Boente, Lookin Up features the brilliant work of some of NYC’s finest jazz musicians, including vocalists Frances Mbappe and Brent Carter, bassists Gene Perez and Gary Foote, and Victor Jones and Luisito Quintero on drums and percussion. To convey more of an open side of his musical spirit, Boulger creates all of his lead melodies on the flugelhorn (“which has more of a singing quality”). Boulger also leads the horn sections with his trumpet playing along with long time friend saxophonist Kris Jensen on “One People One World,” an old school soul-jazz flavored anthem featuring the powerhouse lead vocals of Carter and the voices of over 15 people from different cultures saying “One People One World” in different languages and the global harmony theme prominent on the spirited, playfully rolling South African styled jam “Be One” and the brief interlude “A Prayer For Peace,” a 75 second ambient meditation.
While these songs are designed to inspire listeners to think about our individual roles in creating global harmony, Lookin Up also includes a batch of songs that can be enjoyed as joyous groove or soulful chillout experiences. These include the mystical funk of the title track, the dreamy reflective ten minute meditation “August Blue,” the trippy and percussive “Care” and the ambient, synth effects filled “You Can Be” and “For Now.” Boente’s lush solo piano work shines on tracks like “Somebody’s Dream.”
Boulger, who grew up in North Adams, Massachusetts, credits his father (also named Richard), a trumpeter and teacher, for introducing him to a wealth of music growing up. “My dad, who was always my teacher and mentor, introduced me to the trumpet when I was six and taught me the importance of expressing my heart and spirit through the horn,” he says. “He shared a unique mix of music with me—including Louis Armstrong, Harry James, operatic work like ‘Madame Butterfly, Resphigi’s Pines of Rome and The Clancy Brothers. I was also a big pop and rock fan who loved everything from Kool & The Gang to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey and The Who. When people ask why my music is so eclectic, it’s because I have loved a variety of styles from an early age.”
At 18, Boulger enrolled in the Hartt School of Music (now the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz) at the University of Hartford, where he studied with McLean, the famed alto saxophonist. While studying for his Master’s in Jazz at Rutgers University, he studied with trumpet “guru,” Professor William Fielder. Even as he became a highly respected session musician and live performer, Boulger continued his studies with trumpet icons like Hubbard and Donald Byrd(LINK PIC) as well as pianists Jacki Byard, Walter Bishop Jr. and others. It was Byrd who suggested that the young trumpeter start his label b-1 Music, in 1999, for the release of his debut The Calling.
After coming off the road with the Greg Allman Band, Boulger began committing to his new role as an active clinician/educator. Teaming with a prominent NY area arts organization, he worked on and off at 25 inner city schools from 2003-2007. He later dedicated himself to Brownsville, Brooklyn’s PS 178, helping the students there get instruments for the first time via a VH1 Save the Music Grant. Boulger’s longtime friendship with pianist Eli Yamin, Musical director of the Middle School Jazz Academy at Lincoln Center, gave him the opportunity to have his students considered for admission to the prestigious school; of the 15 kids chosen one year, five were students from PS 178
In addition to his recording, performing and educational endeavors, Boulger recently began doing film scoring, composing, producing and recording the soundtrack for the forthcoming animated movie “Indigo’s Soul
.” He is also looking forward to gathering some of his favorite musicians and doing live performances of the music on Lookin Up
. “I want to get out and promote this project and create a new musical reality for myself and for fans of jazz and electronic music,” he says. “There’s nothing more exciting than playing live and seeing people moving and dancing, having a wonderful time and being inspired. It adds a whole new exciting dimension that goes beyond what can be captured in the studio.
Click to read about THE RICHARD BOULGER BAND