John Riley (born June 11, 1954, Aberdeen, Maryland) is an American jazz drummer and educator. He has performed with Woody HermanStan GetzMilt JacksonMiles DavisDizzy GillespieJohn ScofieldBob MintzerGary PeacockMike SternJoe LovanoFranck Amsallem, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, John Patitucci, and Bob Berg.

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What makes John Riley a great teacher?

First of all, he has played with some of the greatest musicians of all time and his discography reads like a novel.

Legendary jazz drummer John Riley Discography

But this alone doesn’t entitle anyone to being a great teacher. You also have to be very analytical about what you do and how you do it. Given the body of work he has put out as an author and the fact he has been a long time faculty member of the renowned Manhattan School of Music take care of this criterium.

Here are some examples of his analytical mind. The techniques in itself are as nearly always, very obvious, basic even. But it’s the control with which he’s able to execute them at higher tempos which make these so impressive. This gives im undeniable credit as a player and therefore as a teacher because his concepts clearly work.

Then there’s the human factor. In order to get information across well, you have to have empathy and communication skills. If you have ever seen John play or better yet, teach or just demonstrate a groove at a clinic, you can feel the love oozing out of him. Not just love for the instrument, not just for the music, but for everyone willing to listen and feel the power of rhythm, harmony and melody.

Here are some examples of his warmth and humility. Never mind the flawless execution of everything this man plays. Listen to the respect he has for other musicians and for the music itself. Then also also notice his very clear way of communicating his ideas. This is what truly makes for a great teacher in our book.

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