Home » Jazz Musicians » Herlin Riley

Herlin Riley

Since coming of age in the nurturing environment of a very musical family and a distinguished bloodline of drummers, New Orleans native Herlin Riley emerged from that most creative era of all things rhythmic in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, to enliven the ensembles of such influential and demanding improvisers as pianist Ahmad Jamal and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis through his commanding yet elegant rhythmic presence.

His authoritative style of melodic percussion is deeply imbued in the fertile creative soil of the Crescent City, encompassing as it does the entire length and breadth of America’s ongoing musical journey.

Now with the release of his debut recording for Mack Avenue Records, Riley’s New Direction is an engaging, wide-ranging recital that distills a lifetime of experience into a swinging body of new music that defines what a big tent the music of New Orleans has always represented stylistically and spiritually.

“You see,” Riley explains, “New Direction reflects a personal transition from being a musical associate with the likes of Ahmad and Wynton, to functioning in a leadership capacity, both as a bandleader and a composer. Like Art Blakey, I’m trying to maintain a certain exuberance by using all younger musicians, while helping them develop their own voices. So many great musicians and drummers have come out of New Orleans, and that really defines my personal legacy; I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. But I’ve been playing drums since I was three years old, so while the title New Direction may suggest new bottles, this is surely some well-aged wine.

“As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. On ‘Connection to Congo Square’ I quote the ‘Reveille’ in my intro. It reflects the melodic nature of how I tune my tom toms and is also a symbolic call to arms, for all the cats from the different neighborhoods to gather ‘round and participate in this celebration, this collective dialog. In everything I play, there’s some reference from my own personal experience, and while it may not be explicit, it’s all underneath there somewhere.”

For all the hard rhythmic driving intensity of New Direction, Riley is not one of those drummers who needs to blast away to captivate listeners and to remain engaged. There’s a consoling sweetness to the thematic variations of the slow groove on “A Spring Fantasy” and the manner in which Riley narrows the stylistic distance between hand percussion and the drum kit – just as he elicits those mysterious bent notes of the great congueros on his intro to the sultry changes of “Shake Off The Dust.”

Read more

Tags

6
Album Review

Mike Clement: Hittin' It

Read "Hittin' It" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky


Mike Clement makes no bones about his love for the classic organ trio configuration. The Canadian-born, New Orleans-based guitarist uses his liner statement to praise the format and namecheck a handful of his legendary six-string forebears who've made their mark in said domain (i.e. Pat Martino, George Benson, Grant Green), and the music he presents on Hittin' It offers all of the good charms associated with this type of combo. Joining forces with organist John Lee and ...

9
Album Review

Dr John: Things Happen That Way

Read "Things Happen That Way" reviewed by Chris May


Interviewing the late Dr John aka The Night Tripper aka Dr John Creaux aka Mac Rebennack was a pleasure. Witty, erudite and b.s. free, he was reliably good copy. On one occasion he was an hour late and obviously, totally and spectacularly off his face. “If I nod out," he said, “kick me on the shin." The doctor was in... and out. Things Happen That Way has turned out to be Dr John's last recorded studio album, ...

7
Album Review

Clifford Lamb: Blues & Hues New Orleans

Read "Blues & Hues New Orleans" reviewed by Kyle Simpler


There are quite a few cities in the world that have an important musical legacy, and in many cases, the city's musical history might be one of the first things people associate with it. Take New Orleans. Commonly known as the birthplace of jazz, it's hard to imagine New Orleans without conjuring up brass bands, jazz clubs and juke joints. San Francisco-based pianist Clifford Lamb explores New Orleans' musical and cultural aspects with Blues & Hues New Orleans by offering ...

20
Album Review

Yohan Giaume: Whisper of a Shadow

Read "Whisper of a Shadow" reviewed by Jim Worsley


Collaborations are quite common projects in the jazz world, and in most forms of music, for that matter. Collaborations, however, are slightly more rare when a modern day composer's album is in conjunction with a composer from the nineteenth century. Such is the case with the works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) melding with composer and trumpeter Yohan Giaume. Giaume has had a deep connection, both musically and intellectually, with Gottschalk for many years. Gottschalk's world travels, influences, and notable ...

10
Reassessing

Spodie's Back

Read "Spodie's Back" reviewed by Jim Trageser


Still a teenager when signed to Quincy Jones' Warner Bros. subsidiary, Qwest, trumpeter Derrick Shezbie was nonetheless a veteran on this debut as leader--having been playing in the traditionalist Rebirth Brass Band for several years already. Produced by fellow Crescent City native Delfeayo Marsalis, “Spodie's Back" is a much more modernistic outing than anything he would have tackled in Rebirth. But unlike the throwback neo-bop so popular with other young jazz lions in the 1990s, this is more ...

7
Album Review

Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism

Read "Perpetual Optimism" reviewed by Chris Mosey


Herlin Riley, a drummer from New Orleans, is a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis. Indeed, he played a large part in developing the drum parts for the Pulitzer Prize-winning album by Marsalis, Blood on the Fields (Columbia, 1997). On his own album, Riley leads a mainstream quintet playing five of his own numbers, Gene de Paul's lovely ballad “You Don't What Love Is," Victor Young's “Stella By Starlight," Ellis Marsalis' “Twelve's ...

671
Rhythm In Every Guise

Herlin Riley On Criss Cross Jazz

Read "Herlin Riley On Criss Cross Jazz" reviewed by David A. Orthmann


Over the past seven years, Herlin Riley has recorded four compact discs, two under his own name and a pair as a sideman, for the Criss Cross Jazz imprint. Riley's work on these recordings is significant because it stands outside of a long-term, high profile association with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra which ended in 2005. In addition to providing points of entry into his skills as a composer and bandleader, the discs serve as prime examples of a drummer ...

Read more articles
2

Recording

Look Out - The Vocal Debut From Award-Winning Jazz Pianist Jim Clayton Featuring Herlin Riley And Amina Scott - Release Date: October 3rd

Look Out - The Vocal Debut From Award-Winning Jazz Pianist Jim Clayton Featuring Herlin Riley And Amina Scott - Release Date: October 3rd

Source: Scott Thompson Public Relations

"Clayton can swing the daylights out of anything... But he has a different, more expansive definition of Great American Songbook. It's a refreshing concept. I hope more 21st century artists follow." From the liner notes by Ricky Riccardi, 2022 Grammy Winner Blend the piano styles of Nat “King" Cole, Harry Connick, Jr. and Bob Dorough, and add the vocal sound of Bobby Troup, and voila. You've got Jim Clayton. Clayton started the 2020 lockdowns as an award-winning Canadian jazz instrumentalist. ...

5

Recording

Pianist Clifford Lamb's 'Blues & Hues - New Orleans' Features Nicholas Payton, Herlin Riley, Donald Harrison, Roland Guerin & More!

Pianist Clifford Lamb's 'Blues & Hues - New Orleans' Features Nicholas Payton, Herlin Riley, Donald Harrison, Roland Guerin & More!

Source: Scott Thompson Public Relations

Following the success of his previous live, two track recording, Blues & Hues, jny: San Francisco pianist Clifford Lamb again teams up with producer Jeff Weber to pursue their concept of the jazz “mashup”—the process in which a Lamb composition is stirred into an existing jazz work to offer a new perspective on history and culture. This time, they took their show on the road —despite COVID-19 restrictions—to record in jny: New Orleans, the storied birthplace of jazz, whose gritty ...

155

Interview

RYM: Mayra Andrade & Herlin Riley interviews

RYM: Mayra Andrade & Herlin Riley interviews

Source: Rockyoumentally


91

DeWitt Fleming Jr
percussion

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Hittin' It

Cellar Music Group
2024

buy

Look Out

CLAY-TONE Records
2023

buy

Things Happen That Way

Rounder Records
2022

buy

Whisper of a Shadow

Life Celebration Project
2021

buy

Blues & Hues New...

Webberworks Entertainment Group
2021

buy

Perpetual Optimism

Mack Avenue Records
2019

buy

Videos

Similar

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.