In Memoriam: Ralph Peterson Jr.

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Ralph Peterson Jr.

(Photo: Photo: Courtesy the Peterson family)

Drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. passed away at 1:45 a.m. EST on March 1 following a six-year battle with cancer, according to his publicist, Lydia Liebman. He was surrounded by family and friends at the time of his passing. Peterson was 58.

A bandleader, composer and educator, Peterson was known as a fiery, full-of-life presence on the bandstand and off. Beginning in 1983, he burst onto the jazz scene as the second drummer in a late version of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. His resume as a sideman serves as a who’s who of jazz from the 1980s forward, including Terence Blanchard, David Murray, Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Betty Carter, Uri Caine and many more.

Peterson recorded 23 albums as a leader, from his first, Ralph Peterson Quintet: V, to his last, Legacy Alive, Vol. 6 (with The Messenger Legacy band).

In 2018, Peterson spoke to writer Bill Milkowski for DownBeat’s December issue and discussed in his straightforward way his personal battle with cancer.

“I’ve had enough chances to be dead, but I’m grateful to be alive,” he said. “And the focus and intensity and pace at which I’m now working and living is directly related to the spiritual wake-up call that tomorrow isn’t promised.” To read the complete interview, click HERE.

Peterson is survived by his wife Linea, daughter Sonora Slocum, stepdaughters Saydee and Haylee McQuay, and his spiritual daughter Jazz Robertson.

Funeral arrangements are being planned and will be announced shortly. The family asks for privacy during this time. DB



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