Mt. Juliet, TN March, 2021
The drumming community has lost a titan, the Jazz community has lost a fearless warrior and Mapex has lost the longest running artist endorser in the history of the brand. For more than 35 years, Ralph Peterson Jr. has been one of the most distinctive and recognizable drummers in in modern jazz drumming performing as a Mapex artist for almost 30 of those 35 years. He possessed an incomparable talent behind the drum kit, which led to collaborations with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker, Regina Belle, Betty Carter, Ron Carter, and The Roots – not to mention being hand-picked by Art Blakey as the second drummer in the legendary bandleader’s Jazz Messenger Big Band until Blakey’s 1990 passing.
Ralph Peterson Jr. was a dedicated educator having served as a full professor of music at the Berklee School of music in Boston MA. for many years. Students and mentees include many notable names in modern jazz, drummers, and non-drummers alike, all implementing Ralph’s fiery energy and passion for the music into their own careers.
In the recorded music idiom Peterson was a proponent of the music through his Onyx Productions Music Label stating upon the label’s launch “Our goal is to bring you the finest in music, both live and recorded for your cultural, entertainment and education. While we are open to music of all cultures, our primary focus will be presenting, and documenting America's musical art form known as Jazz.”
Ralph’s fierce advocacy for maintaining the Blakey-esque hard bop traditions was evident in his drumming and in his life with a seemingly unstoppable energy and drive to play, promote, and preserve the language of America’s original improvised musical art form known as jazz. The Spirit of Ralph Peterson Jr. carries on through his students, colleagues, band members, recordings, family, friends, and the drums that he played with undeniable conviction.