Ben Riley has had the great fortune of having been brought up in an intensely jazz/classical family. From the age of 3 he was jamming in the basement with the late great pianist, Bill Evans (a regular family guest at the time), who had already taught him how to play brushes and keep time. You know, the typical life of a toddler. When we were teenagers I remember going to see Ben perform in a quartet with another child of a musical family, Emilie-Claire Barlow. It is pretty impressive how every member of that quartet has gone on to an outstanding career in music. The pianist, Mark Camilleri, can now be found music directing Toronto's best musicals or recording the country's top talents at his studio Imagine Sound. The bass player was Ross MacIntyre and if you read this blog you already know how great Ross is. Do I really need to brag about him again?
Over the past two decades, Ben has recorded and performed alongside many luminaries such as Bruce Cockburn, Holly Cole, Michael Burgess, Molly Johnson, Joe Sealy, Jackie Richardson, Doug Riley (Ben's dad, aka Dr. Music), Adele Armin (his mom, violinist with the TSO), Marc Jordan, Amy Sky, Moe Koffman, Michael Kaeshammer and Bowfire among others. If you check out Bowfire's website you can see Ben playing with them on NBC's Today Show. I wonder if Ben got to meet Al Roker? On top of all those sidemen gigs, Ben co-leads an original soul/R&B project in Toronto, Planet Earth.
Having played on dozens of albums and hundreds of commercials, Ben also composes in many genres including classical, jazz, singer/songwriter and R&B. That's What Happens, a song co-written by Ben with Courtney Farquhar, was included on Warner's platinum selling 'Women and Songs 7' compilation CD. Courtney also happens to be Ben's beautiful wife. Seriously, they make such a handsome couple that they are giving Brad and Angelina a run for their money. Ben and Courtney have been working on her new album which should be released this fall. I hear there are some amazing special guests on the CD including Ron Sexsmith!
Okay, now to my insider info about Ben:
- What is your favorite word? funk & poignant
- What is your least favorite word? ya da ya da
- What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]? spontaneity
- What turns you off? insecurity
- What sound or noise do you love? hollow wood being struck, like a woodpecker on a tree
- What sound or noise do you hate? scraping of cutlery on a plate
- What is your favorite curse word? Jesus H Fucking Christ
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? poet
- What profession would you not like to do? surgeon
- If Heaven exists, who's the first person you want to see in concert when you arrive? Doug Riley, my dad
Ben will be joining my quartet for the last two Sundays at the Rex this month. Come on down to 194 Queen Street West August 23rd or 30th from 7-9 to hear Ben in person! (And remind me to ask Ben about Al.)