One of the drum legends of jazz, Peter Erskine, brings his Dr. Um band to TONIGHT'sJazz Live (8pm). The Dr. Um band will be playing songs and genres that are ripe and begging for expert musical attention. From funky originals to Henry Mancini covers, the Dr. Um Band will deliver the goods. The band features John Beasley (keys), Bob Sheppard (reeds) and Benjamin Shepherd (bass). The concert is SOLD OUT but you can LISTEN to the performance at 8pm. If you are going please use the parking pass.
"We play music because we must" - Peter Erskine, ...
Peter Erskine - Jazz Live Interview Prep Resources
Here are a few resources used to prepare for the Jazz Live San Diego interview with Peter Erskine...
“For “La La Land,” Hurwitz and his team recorded the orchestra on the Sony lot but moved to the modest Conway Studios on Melrose Avenue for the jazz and small-band work with Erskine, Kerber and fellow session experts including trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, bassist Kevin Axt, trombonist Andy Martin, guitarist Graham Dechter and others.”
“For his part, Erskine noted his drum fill during the choreographed opening scene. Called in by “La La Land” executive music producer Marius de Vries to add percussion, the musician struggled with getting the right tone. “I remember him saying, ‘I want more violent chords — violent rhythms,’” says Erskine. “And that's just not a word I've ever heard in the production of a jazz recording.” Erskine repeatedly worked on the pattern while adjusting to De Vrie’s suggestions. “I got to the point where I was like, ‘Here's your big fill,’ and I played it angry.” Erskine could hear his emotions when he first saw the scene.
This sounds like more of getting the emotional feel for the music from the direction more than the music itself. Something here about the motivations behind what’s played, be it the interactions of the other musicians, the content of the music (or lyrics), plus this.
How often do you go back, listen to past recordings of yourself, and “hear” the emotions you were feeling and playing then?
Erskine adjusted his approach, putting himself in the mind-set, he said, “of how I imagine some of my students at USC. They’re young, skinny guys wearing skinny ties trying to burn it up.” The onscreen drummer in “La La Land,” though, didn’t end up being a Seb-like hotshot. “It's a sixtysomething dude sitting behind the drums like an old man,” says Erskine. Chuckling, he adds, “That's just not the way an older gentleman would play the drums.”
This is funny. I wonder why they just didn’t have Peter play the part and act like one of his students!
director of drumset studies and professor practice at the Thornton School of Music, has over two dozen albums to his name and has also appeared in over 600 albums and film scores
two past Grammy wins, Erskine’s independently produced album, Dr. Um, was selected as one of five nominations out of nearly 800 submissions under the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album (note winner: Country for Old Men, John Scofield)
[Regarding “Dr. Um” album] The tender tone of the album reflects a harking back to past styles, techniques or chapters of Erskine’s musical life. “The theme became ‘The Lost Pages’ — music that deserved another chance, music that hadn’t been heard or noticed the first time around,” Erskine said. “This album was a chance for me to revisit some music and musical styles that I’d left behind. [It’s music I would’ve played] if I’d known then what I know now.”
“Tender tone” while consistent with the recent past direction of Erskine’s music, seems inconsistent with the revisiting of fusion and funk, which would seem require a harder-driving style of playing. Is this the “what I know now” thing you refer to?
Rather than acquiesce to corporate hurdles, Erskine launched his own record label based in Santa Monica — Fuzzy Music, inspired by a book about fuzzy logic. “I think my nomination signals that the age of artist-owned label has arrived. [Fuzzy Music] represented a means by which I could get music recorded that I wanted recorded,” Erskine said. “It’s still important to make music in the studio — it’s different from playing your own music or playing in a club because it’s there for all time.”
This seems to go against the trend that the way to make a living for a musician is through constant touring. Is the role of recorded music changing at all, in this age of sharing, all digital, streaming...not “owning” music? Is this something on the mind of your students?
“This [nomination for “Dr. Um”] is the most exciting. It’s the first time I’ve been nominated purely as a solo artist; everything before has been a collaborative effort,” Erskine said. “For that reason, and also for the label having two albums nominated, [this year’s Grammys] is great fun.”
2nd album on Fuzzy Music was Best Large Jazz Ensemble “All L.A. Band” led by Bob Mintzer. Was in category with John Beasley’s “MONK’estra, Vol. 1”. Neither won, Ted Nash Big Band epic “Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom: did.
“I think most teachers would recognize the simple truth that part of the reason we like to teach is we end up learning more than the students. USC is a tremendous magnet for great, young, talented musicians,
Share with us something that you recently learned or where challenged on by a student...something that may influence your work as a player, leader, teacher.
On May 26, the jazz label Resonance Records releases Truth, Liberty & Soul, a live June 28, 1982 concert by the Word of Mouth Band, an all-star big band formed by jazz electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987)
Among the players (only a partial list) trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxpohonists Bob Mintzer, Lou Marini, Bob Stein, Howard Johnson and Randy Emerick. The trumpet section was made up of tLew Soloff, Alan Rubin, Jon Faddis, Ron Tooley and Kenny Faulk. Peter Erskine, who worked with Jaco in Weather Report. handled drums. The guest performer was harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans.
Making a record within such a tight window [13 months after 1st “Dr. Um”] “reveal more of the musician’s mettle than longer production can,” advises one of the all-time drumming greats.
Why did you go back into the studio so quickly (was this quickly?) to get another record out?
Did you do much touring with the band after the first release?
There are no songs from Erskine’s old band Weather Report this time, but a pair of Beasley compositions has that ol’ WR vibe. The three cover tunes are all from before the rise of fusion, providing good opportunities for making something new out of old strains.
The New Trio is an outlet for Erskine’s more meditative, intimate side, including the striking talent at piano, the Armenian-born Vardan Ovsepian. At electric bass is Damian Erskine, Peter’s nephew, who has for years made his own name as a musician.
In Praise Of Shadows comes on the heels of ECM’s 2016 reissue of the elder Erskine’s 90s trio records with Palle Danielsson and John Taylor, making comparisons of these two trios almost inevitable.
If you want your jazz to groove, Dr. Um has your prescription, but it you want it to sooth even when the tempos aren’t slow, Peter Erskine New Trio’s In Praise Of Shadows will do the trick very well.