Ralph Peterson Jr. (born May 20, 1962) is an American jazz drummer and bandleader.
Four of Peterson’s uncles and his grandfather were drummers. Peterson himself began on percussion at age three. He was raised in Pleasantville, where he played trumpet at Pleasantville High School and worked locally in funk groups. He applied to Livingston College and Rutgers to study drums, but he failed the percussion entrance exam and enrolled as a trumpeter instead, graduating in 1984.
Later life and career
In 1983, he joined Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers as the second drummer, playing with him 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 has taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston and University of the Arts in Philadelphia. In 2010, Peterson took another bold step with the start-up of his own Onyx Productions Music Label.
- Ralph Peterson Quintet: V (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1988)
- Triangular (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1988)
- Volition (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1989)
- Ralph Peterson Presents the Fo’tet (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1990)
- Ornettology (with The Fo’tet) (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1991)
- Art (Somethin’ Else/Blue Note, 1992)
- The Reclamation Project (Evidence, 1994)
- The Fo’tet Plays Monk (Evidence, 1995)
- Back to Stay (Sirocco Jazz, 1999)
- Triangular 2 (Sirocco Jazz, 2000)
- The Art of War (Criss Cross, 2001)
- Subliminal Seduction (Criss Cross, 2002)
- Test of Time (Criss Cross, 2003)
- The Fo’tet Augmented (Criss Cross, 2004)
- Outer Reaches (with The Unity Project and Pat Bianchi) (Onyx, 2010)
- The Duality Perspective (with The Fo’tet and The Sextet) (Onyx, 2012)
- The Unity Project: Alive at Firehouse 12, Vol. 1 (Onyx 2013)
- Fo’ n Mo’: Alive at Firehouse 12, Vol. 2 (with The Fo’tet Augmented) (Onyx 2014)
- Triangular III [Alive at Firehouse 12, Vol. 3] (Onyx 2016)
- Dream Deferred (with Aggregate Prime) (Onyx 2016)
- I Remember Bu: Alive, Vol. 4 (with The GenNext Big Band and Donald Harrison) (Onyx 2018)
- Inward Venture: Alive, Vol. 5 (with Aggregate Prime) (Onyx 2018)
- Legacy Alive, Vol. 6 (with The Messenger Legacy) (Onyx 2019)
With Uri Caine
- Sphere Music (JMT, 1993)
- Toys (JMT, 1996)
- Blue Wail (Winter & Winter, 1999)
- The Goldberg Variations (Winter & Winter, 2000)
With Craig Handy
With Craig Harris
- Blackout in the Square Root of Soul (JMT, 1989)
With David Murray
- New Life (Black Saint, 1985)
- I Want to Talk About You (Black Saint, 1985)
- Ballads (DIW, 1988)
- Deep River (DIW, 1988)
- Spirituals (DIW, 1988)
- Lovers (DIW, 1988)
- Tenors (DIW, 1988)
With Tom Harrell
- Moon Alley (Criss Cross, 1985)
With James Spaulding
- Gotstabe a Better Way! (Muse, 1988 )
- 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.”
- “Ralph Peterson Jr. Professor of Percussion”. Retrieved 7 April 2014.