The American drummer who worked with Alice Coltrane and Thelonious Monk was 84 years old
Ben Riley died on 18 November at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York. “His death was confirmed by his daughter Kim, who said the cause of death is not yet known,” reported the New York jazz radio station WGBO.
Born in Georgia in 1933, Riley moved to New York City as a child. After drumming in bands at school and during time served in the army, he started playing professionally in 1956. He toured and recorded with Thelonious Monk, working on albums such as It's Monk's Time (1964), Monk (1964), Live At The It Club (1964), Straight, No Chaser (1967) and Underground (1968). He went on to play with Alice Coltrane on A Monastic Trio (1968) and Ptah, The El Daoud (1970), and he also drummed with Abdullah Ibrahim aka Dollar Brand, Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins, among other artists. Following Monk's death, Riley joined Sphere, which originally started as a Monk tribute band, working alongside Monk's tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and Kenny Barron.
Later in his career Riley released his debut album Weaver Of Dreams (Joken, 1996), and ten years later he led The Monk Legacy Septet through Memories Of T. In 2012 Sunnyside released Riley’s Grown Folks Music.