Peter Erskine: Worth The Wait & Standards

Budd Kopman By

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Drummer Peter Erskine broke into the music business in 1972 with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and has not stopped for breath since. He recorded five albums in his first four years, starting in 1978 with Weather Report, and both led and played on a large number of albums for the ECM label. As one can see from his huge discography, Erskine is an in-demand drummer, and the two albums below are but his most recent from his own Fuzzy Music label.

Pairing a big band with a trio recording allows Erskine to show two very different sides of his drumming, and it is easy to see why he is sought out for recordings.

Peter Erskine / Tim Hagans / The Norbotten Big Band
Worth The Wait
Fuzzy Music

Trumpeter Tim Hagans, now the artistic director of Sweden's Norbotten Big Band, was, in 1974, a band mate of Erskine's in the Kenton band. Hagans relates in the liner notes how much Erskine was a role model for young musicians just starting out playing on the road. However, thirty years went by before Hagans could catch up with Erskine, making this album particularly sweet.

Hagans learned his big band lesson well—this group is solid as a rock and swings very, very hard, albeit with Erskine's superlative drumming pushing and burning underneath. The set includes four Erskine compositions ("Worth The Wait," "Plan 9," "Scotland Africa" and "Reason To Believe") arranged by either Hagans himself or Bill Dobbins and three pieces by Hagans ("You Should See My Office," "First Jazz" and "Drum Row") that were written with Erskine's drumming in mind.

All of the soloists, not just Hagans and Erskine, are terrific and even swagger through the variously styled charts. What is obvious is that everyone, including the audience, is having a good time while playing and listening to some killer music. Smiling is a very easy thing to do, especially while you are moving to the grooves and sounds that the arrangements produce.

Anyone who likes the big band sound combined with progressive, never complacent charts will spin Worth The Wait many times.

Alan Pasqua / Dave Carpenter / Peter Erskine
Fuzzy Music

On the other side of the spectrum from big band lies this very intimate piano trio with pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Dave Carpenter and Erskine. Care was taken in the recording process, and it was done in a "live" space with but a pair of microphones. A good audio playback system will create a highly defined soundstage with the musicians clearly positioned.

The tunes chosen, while all standards, are not all war horses, and range from Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" and Lerner and Lowe's "I Could Have Danced All Night" to Kurt Weill's "Speak Low" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma."

Nothing is ever rushed, and even the faster tunes ("Speak Low" and "I Hear A Rhapsody") feel relaxed in their quick tempi. The tracks, most over six minutes, are given the time necessary to explore the meaning of each song, as the arrangements are more than mere round-robin solos. A stage is set and each piece becomes a story with a dramatic arch that carries the listener forward.

Besides the depth of the recorded sound, Pasqua's sings at the piano creating a lushness that just feels good. Carpenter is solid and very attentive to Pasqua, while Erskine uses his brushes to great effect but pushes things along when needed.

While the playing on Standards is not as unique as that done by say, Marc Copeland, it is deeply felt, and perfect for those much needed quiet times.

Tracks and Personnel

Worth The Wait

Tracks: Worth The Wait; You Should See My Office; Plan 9; 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.


Tracks: The Way You Look Tonight; Dear Old Stockholm; Deep In A Dream; Con Alma; It Never Entered My Mind; Speak Low; I'm Glad There Is You; I Hear A Rhapsody; I'm Old Fashioned; I Could Have Danced All Night.

Personnel: Alan Pasqua: piano; Dave Carpenter: bass; Peter Erskine: drums.

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