The final album by Ralph Peterson Jr. will be posthumously released on May 21, one day after what would have been his 59th birthday.

Raise Up Off Me is a “powerful closing statement” from the master drummer, bandleader and composer, who died on March 1 following a six-year battle with cancer.

The album features pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis, Peterson’s longtime bandmates and collaborators, along with special guests Jazzmeia Horn and Eguie Castrillo.

Peterson’s 26th recording as a leader, Raise Up Off Me touches on a number of issues that were important to Peterson: drug addiction and recovery; mental health; social issues and the Black Lives Matter movement; and, more broadly, the delicate impermanence of the physical life.

“In this era where we still feel the foot on our necks, the pepper spray and mace that burns our eyes and face, the bullets and the batons, I find it necessary to remind you that Black Lives Matter… and for my life to matter, you have to raise up off me,” Peterson said in a written statement to accompany the record.

The album includes five of Peterson’s original tunes, along with compositions by Zaccai Curtis, Bud Powell, James Williams, Patrice Rushen and John Hicks. Jazzmeia Horn contributes a bonus track on the digital and vinyl versions.

Raise Up Off Me was recorded at Peterson’s own studio in North Dartmouth, Mass., with engineer Dean David Albak in early December of 2020. The project finds Peterson at home with the Curtis Brothers, to whom he was a mentor and musical father.

“It was always one of the greatest honours to play with Ralph,” says Zaccai Curtis. “We loved him dearly and he always took the time to show us how much he loved us. This music is the pinnacle of what we’ve been striving for as a group. We are extensions of Ralph and his musical visions.”

Luques Curtis adds: “Ralph put a tremendous amount of love and thought into this recording knowing very much that it could be his last. He put his heart into this recording. I remember clearly how much fun he had planning it and his excitement throughout the recording process. I will always be grateful for the time I spent talking and learning from him on how to be a true messenger of music.”

Raise Up Off Me will be available May 21 on all digital platforms as well as on CD and vinyl via Peterson’s own Onyx Productions record label. There will be a virtual listening event the week of the album’s release; details are still to come.