Ralph Peterson Jr., a prolific drummer and bandleader, died today (March 1) at the age of 58 in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. His publicist reported that his death is attributed to complications from cancer.
Known for his hard-bop drumming style and exciting arrangements, Peterson was a highly sought-after drummer in jazz. He was a prominent drummer with Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers until the death of Art Blakey in 1990. His discography appearing as a sideman on more than 150 albums and also leading several projects on his own. Peterson was instrumental in collaborating with Roy Hargrove, Terrance Blanchard, and Branford Marsalis. Blanchard and Marsalis both alumni of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
As a leader, Peterson recorded 23 albums. Beginning with Ralph Peterson Quintet: V to Legacy Alive, Vol. 6 (with The Messenger Legacy band). His latest album, Onward & Upward, was released in May 2020 on his own Onyx Productions Music Label.
Peterson became a noted instructor of percussion at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Some of today’s top drummers, such as E.J. Strickland, Tyshawn Story, and Justin Faulkner, studied under Peterson. His most recent album, Onward & Upward, was released in May 2020 on his own Onyx Productions Music Label.
Peterson is survived by his wife Linea, daughter Sonora Slocum, stepdaughters Saydee and Haylee McQuay, and his spiritual daughter Jazz Robertson.