Honkbopsax turned me on to Riley, who did some killer stuff with Jimmy Smith. Here's the LA times obit (taken from the Boston Globe website):
Herman Riley, saxophonist with jazz stars
By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times | April 26, 2007
LOS ANGELES -- Herman Riley, the jazz saxophonist whose hard-driving, soulful playing as a sideman and accompanist with artists such as Count Basie and Jimmy Smith earned him critical acclaim, died of heart failure April 14 at Brotman Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 73.
Mr. Riley was a favorite of vocalists because of his ability to play well without overpowering singers.
"There are some musicians . . . who certainly shine as soloists out front," said musician and longtime friend George Bohanon. "But when you have to support someone, not get in their way, but enhance what they're doing, that's a special talent. He's the greatest at that. He'd play one or two notes, and you'd beg him to play another."
In the mid-1990s Mr. Riley began playing with jazz vocalist Lavay Smith and recorded on her 2000 album, "Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Miss Thing!" For Smith, Mr. Riley's playing represented a rare link to a generation of musicians whose music she was too young to have heard performed live.
"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."
Born Aug. 31, 1933, in New Orleans, Mr. Riley grew up with jazz. He attended Southern University and performed with the marching band until his draft notice came. While serving a two-year stint in the Army, he played with a military band.
After leaving the Army he attended what is now called San Diego City College and eventually moved to Los Angeles. In 1956 he married Thelma Mitchell, who survives him, along with daughter Shenell Riley Boone, grandson Ethan Boone, and two brothers.
Mr. Riley was playing with Bobby Bryant's band at a club in downtown Los Angeles in the 1960s when he met Fred Jackson, a fellow musician who would become a lifelong friend. The two played at the Cocoanut Grove and later with the band that played for "Sammy and Company," a television show featuring Sammy Davis Jr. that aired in the 1970s.
"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."
Over the years Mr. Riley recorded one album as leader, "Herman," released in 1984. He played on the albums of several other artists, including Smith, singer Etta James, and guitarist Kenny Burrell.
Mr. Riley played all the saxophones, flute, and clarinet.
"He had strong New Orleans roots, but was very broad in his concept," Bohanon said.
He sounded great on Jimmy Smith's 'Sum Serious Blues' disc from the early 90's. On the first cut, he's got a growling, Maxwell Davis like tone and approach, and on the third track, he's playing some fluid bop lines. I found his solo record 'Herman' at a record joint here and haven't given it a listen yet, but I think I'll do so tonight. It's good to see that he found a larger audience later in his life with his inclusion in the Lavay Smith horn player stable.
I was fortunate to hear Herman Riley once as a sideman on a gig with Kenny Burrell. I enjoyed his playing very much. His solos were not technically complicated, and his ideas were uncomplicated and melodic. He had a skill at building interest and intensity during a solo. His sound was wonderful. When he played, I got the impression that this would be an interesting person to meet.
He also played one tune on clarinet, and that was terrific.
I too heard of Herman late in life as he was playing with Kenny Burrell at Yoshi's at Jack London Square. His tenor solo on "Mood Indigo" virtually made that tenor cry... I became an immediate fan. Rest in Peace.
Herman was more than a "good" musician; he was one of the best and most versatile living musicians . I had learned to love Herman as a friend and through his music. I will/do miss him terribly! My deepest condolences to his family.
I must admit that I had not heard of Mr. Riley until now. I, personally, would loved to have heard him in person or on recordings before today.
I was wondering if there would be a way on this forum to have a section that people such as yourselves could post the names of these great players. The new talents always get the press, but these older talents never get the press anymore until someone reads their obituary. I, personally, am a little tired of this.
Let us make a stand, here and now, to change this, at the very least, in the honor of Mr. Riley.
A good idea? Already done here and I just do not know where to find this?
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