Peter Erskine / Tim Hagans / The Norrbotten Big Band: Worth the Wait (2008)
To say that Peter Erskine is the greatest drummer ever to play jazz would be a stretch. Max Roach, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich are among those who would have to be considered for that honor. However, over the past 30 years or so, Erskine certainly has established himself as part of an elite class that includes such names as Harvey Mason, Steve Gadd and Vinnie Colaiuta.
Erskine's resume is extensive. Among those he has shared the stage or studio with are Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Steps Ahead, The Brecker Brothers and Weather Report. He also has won two Grammy awards, including the 2007 honor for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for his work on Some Skunk Funk (Telarc, 2006), featuring Randy and Michael Brecker.
Worth the Wait reunites Erskine with trumpeter Tim Hagans. The pair were part of Kenton's orchestra in the early 1970s. Hagens is artistic director for the Norrbotten Big Band of Sweden, which is also part of this recording. The album is comprised of seven original songs, recorded live at the Kulturcentrum Ebeneser in Lulea, Sweden, in October 2006.
"Worth the Wait" starts off quietly with alto saxophonist Johan Horlen taking the lead over Erskine, bassist Martin Sjostedt and pianist Daniel Tilling. The quartet wastes little time in picking up the energy and volume. Then the rest of the horns come in, displaying an impressive sense of timing. Erskine's pattering solo is one of the song's highlights. After solos by Tilling and trumpeter Dan Johansson, the full band comes in strong.
Erskine showcases his dexterity on "You Should See My Office." Like the title song, "Plan 9" and "Reason to Believe," this one breaks the 10-minute mark, giving the band lots of room for stretching out. Mats Garberg leads on tenor sax before the full band comes in. After a long, quiet interlude, composer Hagans steps up with a bright trumpet solo. Then, before this piece's conclusion, Erskine solos, seemingly using every component of his kit.
While all the songs are well written and expertly performed, one of the most creative is "Scotland, Africa." Soft horns open the track in a march reminiscent of traditional Scottish music. The mood changes when guitarist Ola Bengtsson leads in Wes Montgomery fashion. Erskine underscores with crisp work on the hi-hat. Horlen then takes over on alto sax, while Erskine mixes in some crash cymbal, toms and cowbell action. The scene builds dramatically as the horns come back in behind the leadall while the march rhythm continues in the background. Eventually, Erskine goes it alone, giving the entire kit a workout before the ensemble reverts to the main melody.
The songs on Worth the Wait do run long, but they never drag. This album is the companion release to Standards, on which Erskine is joined by pianist Alan Pasqua and bassist Dave Carpenter. They show contrasting personalities of one of music's premiere drummers.
Track Listing: Worth the Wait; You Should See My Office; Plan; First Jazz; Scotland, Africa; Reason to Believe; Drum Row.
Personnel: Tim Hagans: conductor, trumpet; Peter Erskine: drums; Hakan Brostrom: saxophone; John Horlen: saxophone; Mats Garberg: saxophone; Bengt Ek: saxophone; Per Moberg: saxophone; P-O Svanstrom: trombone; Magnus Puls: trombone; Peter Dahlgren: trombone; Bjorn Hangsel: bass trombone; Bo Stranberg: trumpet; Dan Johansson: trumpet; Magnus Ekholm: trumpet; Tapio Maunuvaara: trumpet; Daniel Tilling: piano; Ola Bengtsson: guitar; Martin Sjostedt: bass.