About Herman Riley, Lavay Smith said, “The way he played was everything I love about jazz,” Smith said. “He was so unbelievably soulful. When I listen to the record he recorded with us, I love it. It’s just as good as it gets.” (Stewart article)
I knew him through the Monterey Jazz Festival, since Herman Riley taught at the summer jazz ‘camp’ connected to the Monterey Jazz Festival for several years.
When I was about 12 years old, I went to him and asked about sound on saxophone.
He told me that you need to know “what to practice, and how to practice” and “what to listen to, and how to listen.”
That has always stuck in my head.
Herman Riley was a great sax player. Unfortunately he passed away a few years back.
His “hard-driving, soulful playing as a sideman and accompanist with artists such as Count Basie and Jimmy Smith earned him critical acclaim” (Stewart article)
Herman Riley was born in New Orleans on August 31, 1933. As he told us in saxophone class, he tried sports in high school, but when that didn’t work out, he took the discipline he learned from athletics and transferred it to music.
In New Orleans, Mr. Riley saw jazz from early on. He went to Southern University and played with the marching band before his draft call came and then he played with a military band in the army.
Herman Riley played saxophones, clarinet, and flute.
“His primary goal was to attain that level of spontaneity that comes from building the vocabulary in jazz,” Jackson said. “He loved Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane. We talked about the dues that they paid, and our willingness to pay dues like that to get to that level.” (Stewart article)
Herman Riley had one album as a leader, “Herman,” in 1984.
Here is a clip of Herman Riley on tenor sax, live at Giannelli Square on April 30, 2006
Herman Riley – tenor sax
Roy McCurdy – drums
John Giannelli – bass
Llew Matthews – piano
Source: Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times | April 26, 2007