Peter Erskine

Drums. Plenty of sideman work, and some bandleading as well.

Time Being
Nov. 1993 / ECM

What a lovely trio: John Taylor on piano, Palle Danielsson on bass, and the leader on drums. In his journeyman years, Erskine was best known for a stint with Weather Report, while this album represents a softer, more sophisticated side. Not soft as in sentimental but in a delicate touch, which both Taylor and Danielsson share. The compositions here are absolutely gorgeous, like pastoral paintings come to life. Erskine contributes two standouts in the romantic “If Only I Had Known” and the charging “Bulgaria”, both of which feature nifty Euro-centric chord changes. Taylor’s entries really shine as well. “Evansong” has a nice, lilting hook amidst labyrinthine chords, and catchy vamps and a sunny bridge make “Ambleside” a real spirit lifter. These are only four of the eleven tracks, all of which have an emotional impact of some sort. No point in name-checking any more.

As for the playing, Taylor’s piano touch pulls you in with space as much as statement. Danielsson has a clear melodic voice on bass. Erskine comes and goes lightly. It takes super skill to control and color a trapset like he does; pity the mix puts the drums in the distance. Regardless, every time I play this album, I’m amazed by the beauty.

July 1997 / ECM

With John Taylor and Palle Danielsson again. “Prelude” hangs Taylor’s piano notes in the air while the drums and bass stir as if from a healthy slumber, previewing the backdrop of silence that can be felt across the rest of the album. This music is definied by acoustic timbre and subtle interplay, and Erskine excels in these departments. His recorded kit sound is well detailed (as are the other instruments), and it goes a long way in documenting the variable touch of this master drummer. In his past, we’ve heard Erskine swing and we’ve heard him lay down the pummeling backbeats, but Juni relies mainly on his abilities as a colorist. There is judicious swing as well, light in “For Jan” and driving in “Twelve”. Erskine’s internal pulse is strong even when he’s on a fluid excursion away from timekeeping, and his stickwork is marvelous.

Taylor is more forbidding than usual (but dig the fiery, intelligent piano solo in “Twelve”), and Danielsson does fine bass work. If there’s a downside to the album, it’s that the music is generally so abstracted as to be unmemorable after the listening fact. An exception is Taylor’s “Windfall”, with its fetching piano vamp and ascending major chords, and “For Jan” (written by Kenny Wheeler) lingers in the mind. But by and large, the window to Juni’s musical world opens and closes with the Start/Stop buttons. That’s not really a demerit; it’s nice to think of the album as a private sanctum of sorts - enter, be enlightened, leave.

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