Peter Erskine has been a drummer of choice for notable jazz musicians such as John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson, Gary Burton the late Stan Kenton and others. Stints with Weather Report and now the commercially viable “Yellowjackets have skyrocketed Erskine’s career into the stratosphere. Over the years, Erskine has released a string of worthy solo recordings for various labels yet his adventurous and prolific Piano Trio represent simple unrestrained elegance and class.
Juni is the group’s 4th release on ECM records under Erskine’s leadership. Along with John Taylor (piano) and Palle Danielsson (bass), Juni continues in the same direction as the previous 3 ECM releases. The trademark chamberesque-free jazz motifs and stylizations become evident on John Taylor’s “Prelude No.2”. Erskine’s “The Ant & The Elk” provides a good snapshot of the Trio’s long-standing implementations of shifting tempos, quiet dynamics, dazzling virtuosity and intuitive interplay. Here, Erskine’s drumming is intricate and sensitive yet the pulse tends to veer off in different time signatures, as The Trio are rarely complacent and continue to reinvent themselves as a unit. Taylor’s “Fable” is a somber, introspective ballad. The great bassist, Palle Danielsson pursues Taylor’s probing yet expansive chord progressions and interludes with uncanny insight. Here, Erskine provides a mini drum clinic with his adept brushwork. Erskine’s “Twelve” develops into a straight-ahead swing, which is pleasantly austere due to John Taylor’s jazz-classical approach. Taylor must be performing on a European classical piano, which is quite sobering yet supplies a trace or two of theatrics. Needless to say, John Taylor is a great pianist and vastly under recognized in the States.
For those of you unfamiliar with this band, think of an off-center version of Keith Jarrett’s Piano Trio; although comparisons are slim. Juni is a noble successor to the 1996 ECM release “As It Is” yet this writer feels that their first recording for ECM, “You Never Know” will stand the test of time as a modern jazz classic. Prejudices aside, Juni is music magic. ****