Rich Laughlin was born on October 21st, 1958 ( sharing a birthday with Dizzy Gillespie)in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). His musical odyssey began there, a culturally liberal city where diverse musical styles from classical through jazz,rock and funk coexisted peacefully creating hybrid forms and optimal integration of artists. Early influences in these processes included the iconic trumpeter/composer Don Ellis ( who, like Rich, attended Minneapolis West High School) and the soon to be pop star Prince ( a classmate with whom Rich’screative path briefly intersected).
Rich began playing music at age 10, choosing the trumpet two years later as his main instrument. Earnest private study with some of the city’s top local players ( Greg Lewis, Steve Wright and Billy Shiell)provided a solid foundation and a mastery of stylistic expression. At this juncture, Rich began self study in Music Theory and Composition, starting his own jazz-rock group ultimately documenting his first arrangements.
Following a stint in college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ( under the tuteledge of renowned trumpet pedagogue Dominic Spera), Rich picked up his first professional gig as trumpet soloist with Lionel Hampton’s former drummer John Stafford and his Big Band. Shortly afterwards in 1978, he joined the 528th U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America, relocating to St. Louis, Missouri. Private study continued with St. Louis trumpet great Bob Ceccarini and the renowned Prof. William Adam at Indiana University. As lead trumpet,soloist and arranger for the Air Force Band, Rich took advantage of an overseas assignment to Europe in 1982, giving concerts throughout the continent from Denmark down through Northern Africa. The ensuing socio-cultural experiences spurred the development of a unique approach toward composing and arranging in hybrid classical-jazz-rock idioms.
Upon leaving the military in 1984, Rich Laughlin settled in Munich, Germany, quickly becoming one of the most “ in demand” trumpeters in the lively studio, theater and jazz scene there.Now enjoying central Europe as a base, he had the opportunity to perform with major jazz artists such as Charlie Mariano, Benny Bailey, Dusko Goykovich and Wolfgang Dauner. A four year stint with the legendary Swiss jazz drummer Charlie Antolini as trumpet soloist,composer and arranger brought first accolades on the European Jazz scene. As a member of the groundbreaking Salsa/ Latin Jazz Orchestra Conexion Latina, Rich further developed his writing concepts culminating in his first major composition dedicated to and featuring an early influence, the incredible trumpeter and fellow ex-pat Benny Bailey. The suite entitled “ Three Cuban Moods for Trumpet” premiered to great critical response at the 1987 Munich Jazz Festival. Shortly afterwards Rich formed his own Jazz Quintet: the Rich Laughlin Group with leading soloists on the local scene: Tony Lakatos (Tenor Sax) , Larry Porter (Piano) , Paolo Cardoso (Bass) and Mario Gonzi (Drums). Parallel to his creative endeavors, Rich exercised his stylistic mastery to include performing as solo trumpet in major theater productions in Berlin ( Theater des Westens)Vienna and Munich ( Deutsches Theater) and many others. As part of a then thriving studio scene he logged countless recording sessions for movies and television, including the music to the Hollywood feature “The Cool World” ( Mark Isham composer).
Live backing iconic European singing stars including Ute Lemper , Catarina Valente and Milva further enriched the musical palette.
A chance return to the US in 1995 as trumpeter, arranger and composer for a Broadway musical production, Rich found himself in the center of the jazz universe-New York City. A fortunate encounter resulted in performances with the great jazz bassist and spiritual mentor Buster Williams.
Upon completion of the theater run, Rich entered Sorcerer Sound’s recording studios to produce his first solo effort, armed with new music for jazz quintet. The all star ensemble included Vincent Herring (Alto+Tenor Sax) with Onaje Allan Gumbs(Piano), David Williams(Bass) and Viktor Lewis (Drums). Representing a homage to the late, great trumpet liberator Woody Shaw and featuring erstwhile sidemen-resulting in Onaje’s spontaneous comment: “Rich catches the spirit of Woody…”
Returning to Europe and home base Munich, Rich continued writing and playing for numerous ensembles. His arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Naima” for Conexion Latina enjoyed international critical response (Jazz Times magazine) as well as ample radio-play. He continued to perform with the big bands of Al Porcino and Dusko Goykovich. A creative highlight was the reunion with legendary trumpeter Benny Bailey for his last major recording-a landmark collaboration in 2002 recorded in Praque with Benny as soloist with the Petrosek String Orchestra and Jazz Trio featuring Kirk Lightsey (Piano). Rich served as arranger and conductor. The ensuing recording was revisited live at the Munich Jazz Festival 2003-among Benny’s final performances.
A quantam leap ensued upon joining the ICI ( International Composers and Improvisers )Ensemble-a Munich based large orchestral ensemble dedicated to presenting new music through the intersection of composition and improvisation. Productions/ collaborations followed with stalwart progenitors of the music such as William Parker, George Lewis and Barry Guy. Rich performed as lead and solo trumpet and began exploring and stretching the boundries of conventional sound production. At once internalizing the continuum from his pan-stylistic beginnings back in Minneapolis to the liberating avenues offered in these new surroundings, the scene was set for a redefinition of musical credo. A fertile creative scene emanated thru ICI and spun sub-groupings as Rich founded the electro-acoustic quartet “Melting Point”, featuring sound-duo 48 Nord and Woodwind giant Bennie Maupin culminating 2006 in a concert recording in Munich’s Byzantine- inspired Allerheiligen-Hofkirche. Among the enthusiastic audience members: ECM’s Manfred Eicher.
Out of the productions with Barry Guy came a creative friendship and the call to take over Kenny Wheeler’s chair ( his future preference being small groups) in the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. The calling resulted in Rich’s opportunity to be part of an extraordinary CD / DVD production of a concert at the Schaffhausen (Switzerland) Jazz Festival which featured Irene Schweizer as guest soloist with this incredible orchestra. The connection with Barry Guy resulted in no less than a major rebirth of a personal musical manifesto. The very basic concepts of how and why we make music were completely redefined. The story continues in October 2013 with an LCJO appearance in Warsaw , Poland at the AdLibitum Festival.
An ongoing search toward integration of the composed and the improvised led to the formation of the Rich Laughlin Ensemble. A 10 piece organization utilizing musicians capable of fusing both genres, the Ensemble consists of: Cornet, French Horn,Tuba, Soprano Sax ( doubling Alto Sax), Tenor Sax ( doubling Flute), Bass Clarinet (doubling Alto Flute), Cello, Vibraphone, Bass and Drums. Highlights include a concert DVD recorded at the Jazz Bridge Festival in Praque.
With his current projects “ Melting Point” , “Rich Laughlin Ensemble” and a newly created duo with avant garde Cellist Margarita Holzbauer, Rich Laughlin is actively pursuing the creation of music outside the box and the devolpment of the Cornet as his solo voice. 2014 the Rich Laughlin Ensemble will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bennie Maupin’s classic ECM recording “ The Jewel in the Lotus” with Rich’sexpanded orchestration and Bennie’s timeless interpretations.