Howard Riley – discuss …

A pioneering contributor to the burgeoning modern British jazz scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Howard Riley was – and has remained – one of the genre’s most original and individual talents.

Our Dusk Fire imprint has reissued The Howard Riley Trio’s highly collectable 1968 debut release, ‘Discussions’ – only 99 copies pressed make it one of the most sought-after releases by collectors – featuring the talents of rising stars Jon Hiseman and Barry Guy and enhanced by the inclusion of previously-unreleased recordings of Riley’s first trio of 1960.


You can also enjoy some of Howard’s later releases from our digital music catalogue.

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Howard Riley Trio in 1975

‘Discussions’ set Howard on the road to record with David Howells at CBS, Peter Eden at British indie Turtle, and subsequently with other labels in the UK and continental Europe, right up to the present day.

Whether solo, duetting, or in further trio ensembles, he has collaborated with many of modern British jazz’s greatest names including Ian Carr, Don Rendell, Tony Oxley, Keith Tippett, Elton Dean, Jeff Clyne, Trevor Watts, John Stevens, Evan Parker, Alan Jackson, John McLaughlin and of course Guy and Hiseman.

Unlike many of his peers, Howard Riley did not join the march to jazz/rock that emerged in the last gasps of the 1960s: the time of Nucleus, If, Soft Machine, Colosseum and Centipede, amongst others.

His avant-garde music (and a rigid, almost spiritual, ethos – “the objective always to arrive at freedom through spontaneity”) could have chimed both practically and idealistically with those of the ‘new jazz wave’ of  National Health, Matching Mole and Henry Cow.

But perhaps taking that direction could also have meant some compromise of ideals: those of being free to choose how and what you play, not to be shackled to commercial expectation and dictate, to evolve,  let the music develop naturally, in real time.

As his fellow free jazz improviser, drummer John Stevens once observed: ‘only change is constant’.


“ … a fascinating maverick on the British improv avant-garde of the 1970s. He’s an enduringly valuable presence.” John Fordham, The Guardian

 “ … a wonderfully empathic musician. Riley’s history is a testament to the notion that, often, individual excellence is achieved in the context of a collective of equally empathic, articulate peers.”

Duncan Heining, All About Jazz


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