Drummer Ralph Penland Dies at 61

Prolific session man worked primarily in L.A.

Drummer Ralph Penland died on March 13 at age 61, due to complications from a stroke. The place of death was not reported.

Originally from Cincinnati, Penland, who worked primarily in the L.A. area, played with Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Stan Getz, Kenny Burrell, Toots Thielemans, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Harry Connick Jr., George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Geri Allen, Chaka Khan, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stan Getz and Wallace Roney, among others. He also led his own band, the Penland Polygon.


Ralph Penland

A discography lists Penland as a participant in more than 100 recording sessions, including dates with Hubbard, Laws, Clarke, Reeves, Wilson, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Chet Baker, Kirk Whalum, Charlie Rouse, Bunky Green, and Etta James.

Penland was a staff member at Pasadena City College and previously taught at the New England Conservatory.


  • Mar 20, 2014 at 12:04AM joe56

    To my dear friend who left way to soon. You made your mark, you took us to school. Like Freddie said; you were one of the hottest young drummers, and you sounded like Tony. You were markin' time for Freddie, Hubert, Herbie, and Frank. Natalie, Chet, Santana, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, and Joe. When I first heard you play, you blew my mind. You took me on a journey through time. From classical to bop to funk, soul and rock n roll with so much heart, so much soul. With your Poly Rythm, your Polygon. Ralph Penland penitrated, puntuated. Made his mark on the music scene in the 21st century. With your solid rythm, making history and more. Making friends everywhere you go. Now you're on your way home. God Bless you Ralph. I'll miss you. My dear Friend. God bless you Ralph. Thanks for your help. Your imagination,and Dreams. 3/15/2014 Seattle Washington Joseph Melnikas Merrimack Records. p.s. I wrote a lyric for Ralph. I've sent it to Hubert Laws. I have asked him to write the melody. I will share it with you if you like. All the best Joseph Melnikas

  • Apr 05, 2014 at 10:32PM John Kaye

    Beautiful Memorial for a Great Artist & Wonderful Person. A measure of a man can be found in the number of friends he has. Ralph had a full house at his memorial and the repass (reception) afterward was friends and family with a great time had by all! Both locations were S.R.O. Standing Room Only. See you in the next world friend, hopefully later than sooner! Photos https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.473805219413587.1073741853.100003523394136&type=1&l=b8144dc4e9

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