Herlin Riley is an American Neo-bop jazz drummer. Along with other notable musicians such as Wynton Marsalis and Wessel Anderson, he was an original member of the New York jazz group, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Herlin Riley was born in New Orleans, Louisiana into a musical family, and first began playing the drums at the age of three. He studied trumpet throughout high school and for two years of college, but his interest in the instrument waned and he began to focus again on drums.
From 1984 to 1987, Herlin Riley was a member of Ahmad Jamal's group. He joined Wynton Marsalis in 1988, and toured and performed with them until the group disbanded in 1994. He also performed music by Duke Ellington on the first Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra U.S. tour in 1992.
Herlin Riley has made recordings with Marcus Roberts, Dr. John, Harry Connick, Jr., George Benson, Benny Wallace, and Mark Whitfield. He has also played in theatrical performances, including One Mo' Time and Satchmo: America's Musical Legend.
Herlin Riley is a regularly featured musician at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and played a large part in developing the drum parts for Wynton Marsalis's Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields. He is a lecturer in percussion for the jazz studies program at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.
Jazz drummer Herlin Riley played with many artists, inluding Cassandra Wilson and David 'Fathead' Newman.
In October 2005 Herlin Riley played with tap virtuoso Savion Glover in "Jazz in Motion: Tappin' Into Monk," a brainchild of Jazz at Lincoln Center, delivering ample testimony for the argument that jazz and dance are cousins in the arts. Savion Glover was briefly a drummer himself, and percussion is his portal to the music.