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.