Riley, Ben(jamin A.) (Savannah, GA, 17 July 1933)




Between 1956 and 1965 he played with Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Junior Mance, Kenny Burrell, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin (1960-62), Paul Winter, Jeremy Steig, Ahmad Jamal, Roland Hanna, Billy Taylor, Walter Bishop, Jr., Kai Winding, and Ray Bryant, and recorded with Mance (1961), Winter (1963), Steig (1963), and Bryant (1964). He became best known for his work as Thelonious Monk's drummer from 1964 to 1967, during which time he traveled extensively. He recorded with Alice Coltrane (1968-75) and performed with her from 1971; the same year he joined the New York Jazz Quartet, with which he played at intervals into the 1980s. He also performed in the USSR with Toots Thielemans, Milt Jackson, and Bob James, and played with Ron Carter's quartet (1975), with which he later recorded (1977), and for a brief period in 1981 with Jim Hall's trio. Later he formed the group Sphere with Charlie Rouse, Buster Williams, and Kenny Barron, and from 1984 played with Abdullah Ibrahim, with whom he toured the USA and Africa. Riley is known for his sense of swing, his command of coloristic effects, and his attention to theme and structure.


Jeff Potter


The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988