Drummer Ralph Penland Dies at 61

Prolific session man worked primarily in L.A.

Ralph Penland image 0
Jeff Tamarkin

Ralph Penland

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.

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.