Born in 1957 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Riley grew up in a musical family and first began playing the drums at age three. Despite his early affinity for percussion, Riley focused primarily on trumpet throughout high school, eventually returning to drums full-time during his junior year of college. After college, Riley joined pianist Ahmad Jamal's band from 1984 to 1987. Also in the '80s, he found work performing with a bevy of name artists including Harry Connick, Jr., Marcus Roberts, George Benson, and others.
Since 1988, Riley has been a regular member of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' ensembles, appearing on such albums as Majesty of the Blues (1988), Standard Time, Vol. 2: Intimacy Calling (1990), Blue Interlude (1991), Citi Movement (1992), and In This House, On This Morning (1993). Also with Marsalis, Riley has been a longtime member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra appearing regularly in concert, on tour and on such albums as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields (1997).
In 2000, Riley made his solo debut with Watch What You're Doing, followed in 2005 by Cream of the Crescent with fellow JLCO-members Marsalis, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, and saxophonist Victor Goines. Also during this time, he appeared on such albums as Cassandra Wilson's Silver Pony (2010), Cecile McLorin Salvant's WomanChild (2013), and Craig Handy's Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (2014).
In 2016, he released his third solo effort, New Direction, on Mack Avenue Records. Underlining Riley's vast stylistic experience, New Direction showcased his love of Afro-Cuban and Latin Rhythms, post-bop, and historic New Orleans jazz traditions. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi