The cause of his death has not been reported.
Penland’s performance credits is a “Who’s Who” list of jazz superstars: Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Stan Getz and dozens more top artists in the genre.
Penland was a faculty member in the Jazz Department at Pasadena City College and previously taught at the New England Conservatory, where he had studied originally.
Between 1973 and 2013, Penland performed in 100 recording sessions and most recently, led his own band, The Penland Polygon.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Penland purchased his first drum set at the age of 15 and just two years later was performing with renowned Jazz-Pop guitarist Wilbert Longmire and was a featured percussionist with The Cincinnati Symphony. Not long after, he moved to Boston where, still in his early twenties, he began teaching at The New England Conservatory of Music.
It was during this time, while commuting to New York, that Penland met and joined up with Freddie Hubbard, and the pair recorded five albums, two of which, “Keep Your Soul Together” and “High Energy” are considered ground-breaking works of jazz.
Upon news of his death, social media exploded with comments of both sadness and respect.
“Traveling mercies to our beautiful friend, drummer Ralph Penland who returned home to the great Creator,” fan Mary Bogue posted on Penland’s Facebook page. “You kept perfect time, such a gift to every singer; such a sweet, sweet gift. Peace be with you, our dear friend Ralph.”
Penlands commercial, pop, R&B and rock credits include performances with The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Jeffrey Osborne, Grover Washington, Jr., Benard Ighner, Eric Gale, Ali Woodson, Patrice Rushen, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum, Everette Harp, Steve Vai, Brian Auger, Robben Ford, George Benson and Frank Sinatra.
Penlands’ film work and musical movie soundtracks include “Throw Momma From The Train”, “When Harry Met Sally”, “Cool World”, “The Russia House”, “Midnight In The Garden Of Good & Evil” and the HBO series “Politically Incorrect.”