Born: May 20, 1962 Primary Instrument: Drums
For nearly 30 years, Ralph Peterson has been one of the most distinctive and recognizable drummers in jazz. His talent and drive as a drummer, composer, arranger and bandleader set him apart as a Master among his peers. In 1980, Ralph was accepted into the Jazz Studies program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Some of his teachers there included Kenny Barron, Paul Jeffrey and drummer Michael Carvin.
Peterson met master drummer Art Blakey in 1983. A few months after sitting in, Blakey called Peterson (then a college junior) to play along side him in his two-drummer big band. This was for a performance at the Boston Globe Festival. Ralph continued in the Jazz Messenger Big Band until Blakey’s passing. Peterson takes seriously the honor and responsibility of being the “Last Messenger Drummer” and later paid homage to Blakey on his 1992 recording “Art.” In 1985, a year after his graduation from Rutgers, Peterson was hired to perform with piano giant Walter Davis Jr., as well as with trumpeter Jon Faddis. Ralph has since become a member of the jazz elite. His recording and touring resume includes jazz greats like Terrence Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, Stanley Turrentine, David Murray, The Count Basie Orchestra, Betty Carter, and Michael Brecker.
Peterson’s recording career began in 1985 with the Blue Note stable band OTB (Out of the Blue). Shortly thereafter, he was signed to the Blue Note Label as a leader and released six critically acclaimed recordings. His debut project V, won him the prestigious Swing Journal Gold Disc Award. Ralph has since recorded two CDs for the Evidence label, (the Reclamation Project and The Fo’tet Plays Monk), and two CDs for the British Sirocco Jazz label (Back to Stay) which featured Michael Brecker and “Triangular 2” which features Dave Kikowski. His Quintet release on Criss Cross entitled “The Art of War” received rave reviews and this Quintet, as did the following releases “Subliminal Seduction” and “Tests of Time.” The bands energy and precision was the subject of much of the buzz in the international jazz community and helped launch the careers of young stars like Jeremy Pelt and Orin Evans. Peterson has accomplished the difficult task of keeping a working band (The Fo’tet) together for 20 years and now features the Soprano Sax work of Sam Newsome. This year marks the reunion of his innovative group The Fo’tet, the release of a new CD on Criss Cross called The Fo’tet Augmented. One of the most original sounding bands in jazz for the last 20 years has now augments it sound occasionally with percussion. The Sextet featured some of the brightest young players on the scene like Sean Jones, Walter Smith III, Tia Fuller and The Curtis Brothers.
Ralph has continued to maintain and set standards in creativity, both as a leader and a sideman by working with musicians such as Don Byron and the Charles Tolliver Big Band. In December of 2000, Ralph subbed for the legendary Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, at Elvin’s request, at the Blue Note 19th Anniversary Celebration. As an educator, Ralph has been on the faculty at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Long Island University, The New School, NJ PAC’S Jazz for teens program, The North Netherlands Conservatory in Holland, Rutgers University, and the Juilliard School of Music. Some drummers who have studied with him include EJ Strickland, Ari Honig, Justin Faulkner, Rodney Green, Vince Ector, Mark Whitfield Jr. and too many more to name.
Peterson’s latest recording, on his own Onyx Music Label, features an exciting organ group called the Unity Project which pays homage the music and mastery of organist Larry Young while at the same time carrying the organ tradition forward. 2010 will also see the release of his first instructional DVD. In the spirit of giving back to the next generation of musicians, Ralph has instituted The Blackstone Education Foundation which is dedicated tot the preservation and documentation of America’s music art form…Jazz He is now Full Professor at Berklee College of Music, Artist in Residence Prince Claus Conservatory in Holland as well as a clinician and endorser for Mapex Drums, Vic Firth Sticks, Axis Pedals as well as Bosphorus Cymbals, where he designed their newest cymbal line aptly called The Oracle.
Awards:Swing Journal Gold Disc Award -1988 - V -Blue Note 1 of Best 10 Recording of the Decade (Village Voice) - 1989 - TriAngular Blue Note 1 of Best 100 CD's of the 2000's (Down Beat) - 2000 - Back To Stay - Scirroco
Outer Reaches is Ralph Peterson’s homage to the rich Jazz Organ history he both influenced by and an integral part of. The band does fresh arrangements of the songs from that CD stretching the boundaries of the vocabulary of what most people think Jazz Organ to be. This band re-introduces and showcases Pat Bianchi as a major voice on Organ as well as two more incredible young talents, Josh Evans on Trumpet and Jovan Alexandre on Tenor.
Fives years ago Ralph Peterson met organist Pat Bianchi in Denver Co. At a clinic and gig at UC Boulder. Immediately upon meeting an accord was struck between the two musicians. They have a connection that is sometimes telepathic and this group Unity is the platform to showcase their amazing musical connection.
Peterson’s history with jazz organ goes back more then 25 years to the great clubs of New Jersey like Mr. West and Sparky J’s. Here Peterson cut his teeth with musical greats like Leo Johnson, Gene Phipps, Eddie Gladden, and Dave Eubanks. He was deeply influenced as well by the Great Larry Young and his Unity recording.
This release of OUTER REACHES also marks the launch of Peterson's own Onyx Music Label, as well as his 15th CD as a leader.
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