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Ralph Peterson Jr.

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Ralph Peterson Jr.
Born(1962-05-20)May 20, 1962
Pleasantville, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedMarch 1, 2021(2021-03-01) (aged 58)
Dartmouth, Massachusetts, U.S.

Ralph Peterson Jr. (May 20, 1962 – March 1, 2021) was an American jazz drummer and bandleader.

Early life[edit]

Peterson's father, Ralph Peterson, Sr., was the first black police chief and first black mayor of Pleasantville, New Jersey, where Peterson was raised.[1] Four of Peterson's uncles and his grandfather were drummers, and Peterson himself began on percussion at age three. Peterson played trumpet at Pleasantville High School and worked locally in funk groups. He applied to Livingston College at Rutgers University to study drums, but he failed the percussion entrance exam and enrolled as a trumpeter instead, graduating in 1984.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

In 1983, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers as the group's second drummer for several years. He worked with Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison in 1984, and with Walter Davis (1985, 1989), Tom Harrell (1985), Out of the Blue (1985–1988), Branford Marsalis (1986), David Murray, Craig Harris (1987), James Spaulding (1988), Roy Hargrove (1989), Jon Faddis (1989), Dewey Redman, Mark Helias (1989), and Wynton Marsalis (with the Count Basie ghost band).

During the 1990s, Peterson played as a sideman with Jack Walrath, Craig Handy, Charles Lloyd, Kip Hanrahan (1992), Bheki Mseleku, Courtney Pine, Steve Coleman, George Colligan, Stanley Cowell, Mark Shim, and Betty Carter.

He began recording as a leader in 1988, with a quintet (Terence Blanchard, Steve Wilson, Geri Allen, and Phil Bowler) on V and Volition. He also worked with Allen and Bowler as a trio in "Triangular"; Essiet Essiet replaced Bowler for the 1988 Triangular recording. In 1989 he recorded in the quartet format as "The Fo'tet" with Don Byron, Steve Wilson (later Bobby Franchesini), Melissa Slocum (later Belden Bullock), and Bryan Carrott. After living in Canada for some time, he returned to Philadelphia, where he worked again with "The Fo'tet,” and recorded as Triangular 2 with Slocum and Uri Caine. He also led the group "Hip Pocket,” with whom he played trumpet.

Peterson taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston[3] and University of the Arts in Philadelphia. In 2010, Peterson started his own Onyx Productions Music Label.

Peterson died at his home in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, from complications of cancer on March 1, 2021, at age 58.[4][1]


As leader[edit]

  • V (Blue Note, 1988)
  • Triangular (Blue Note, 1989)
  • Volition (Blue Note, 1990)
  • Ralph Peterson Presents the Fo'tet (Somethin' Else, 1990)
  • Ornettology (Somethin' Else, 1991)
  • Art (Blue Note, 1993)
  • The Reclamation Project (Evidence, 1995)
  • The Fo'tet Plays Monk (Evidence, 1997)
  • Back to Stay (Sirocco, 1999)
  • Triangular 2 (Sirocco, 2000)
  • The Art of War (Criss Cross, 2001)
  • Subliminal Seduction (Criss Cross, 2002)
  • Tests of Time (Criss Cross, 2003)
  • The Fo'tet Augmented (Criss Cross, 2004)
  • Outer Reaches (Onyx, 2010)
  • The Duality Perspective (Onyx 2012)
  • Alive at Firehouse 12 Vol. 1 (Onyx, 2013)
  • Alive at Firehouse 12 Vol. 2: Fo' n Mo (Onyx, 2016)
  • Triangular III (Onyx, 2016)
  • Dream Deferred (Onyx, 2016)
  • I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 @ Scullers (Onyx, 2018)
  • Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 At The Side Door (Onyx 2018)
  • Legacy Alive Vol. 6 at the Side Door (Onyx, 2019)
  • Listen Up! (Onyx, 2019)
  • Onward & Upward (Onyx, 2020)
  • Raise Up Off Me (Onyx, 2021)

As sideman[edit]

With Uri Caine

With Wayne Escoffery

  • Intuition (Nagel Heyer, 2004)
  • Live at Smalls (SmallsLIVE, 2015)
  • Vortex (Sunnyside, 2018)
  • The Humble Warrior (Smoke Sessions, 2020)

With Orrin Evans

  • Captain Black (Criss Cross, 1998)
  • Grown Folk Bizness (Criss Cross, 1999)
  • Mother's Touch (Posi-Tone, 2014)

With David Murray

With others


  1. ^ a b Russonello, Giovanni (March 7, 2021). "Ralph Peterson Jr., Jazz Drummer and Bandleader, Dies at 58". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  2. ^ Schwachter, Jeff. "A Musical Homecoming for Ralph Peterson; From Pleasantville to Blakey to Berklee and beyond, Ralph Peterson's life in jazz comes full circle with new album and Father's Day concert in Atlantic City." Archived 2014-08-19 at the Wayback Machine, Atlantic City Weekly, June 13, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2013. "Peterson grew up in Pleasantville and graduated from Pleasantville High School. He then went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, graduating in 1984, and 'studying with a lot of big [music] people there,' including Kenny Barron and Michael Carvin."
  3. ^ "Ralph Peterson Jr. Professor of Percussion". Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  4. ^ Zimmerman, Brian (1 March 2021). "Drummer Ralph Peterson Jr., Torchbearer for the Jazz Messengers, Dies at 58". JAZZIZ Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2021.


External links[edit]