Riley was born in London but he grew up in County Galway in Ireland. He began playing classical music on clarinet and piano at a young age but only realised his vocation when he picked up the tenor saxophone at the age of fifteen and discovered jazz.
He gained a BA in Jazz Performance at Leeds College of Music, graduating with first class honours and winning several awards, including the Dave Cooper Memorial Prize for Jazz Saxophone, the John Scheerer Prize for Woodwind and the David Hoult Prize for Outstanding Performance.
He studied in New York under Seamus Blake, Chris Cheek and Joel Frahm and has spent the last few years building an impressive reputation as one of the country’s most exciting young improvisers, performing at numerous UK jazz festivals with the LOCUS sextet.
Riley won the Yamaha Jazz Scholar award in 2011 and was in the tenor chair in NYJO until early 2015. .