Ralph Peterson, Jr. Day

May 20, 1962 – March 1, 2021

A tribute to the drummer and bandleader

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Drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr. passed away on March 1, 2021 at the age of 58.

Peterson was born March 20, 1962 in Pleasantville, New Jersey, playing percussion from the age of three and also doubling on trumpet by the time he was in high school.

In 1983 he became an occasional member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, working with Blakey whenever he wanted to add a second drummer.

Peterson played with the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison Quintet in 1984 and in the ‘80s also worked with Walter Davis, Tom Harrell, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Dewey Redman and Out Of The Blue; the 1990s found him having stints with Jack Walrath, Charles Lloyd, Courtney Pine, Steve Coleman, Stanley Cowell and Betty Carter among others.

Peterson made his first of at least 26 albums as a leader in 1988, leading several hard bop-oriented groups (some of which he called his Fo’tet) with such players on his records as Geri Allen, Steve Wilson, Terence Blanchard, Don Byron and others.

Surviving both drug and health problems, he made a comeback in later years, leading groups that were dedicated to the Jazz Messengers and recording quite a few albums during his final five years before his death from cancer.

Here is Ralph Peterson Jr. leading a quintet on Feb. 27, 2019, performing an original.

-Scott Yanow


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