Fourth album from the subtle Erskine Trio continues to explore space and texture and what the dummer-leader refers to as the "underside of music-making". As on previous showings, pianist John Taylor's still-undervalued compositional skills are to the fore, but Erskine and bassist Danielsson also contribute material - ranging from a waltz to a 12 tone piece - and the tradition of including a Kenny Wheeler piece on each disc is also brought up to date. Down Beat described this as a "Zen" trio; Erskine says "We never solo but we always solo."
The newest addition to ECM’s popular Old and New Masters Series is a box set reprising the four albums made by Peter Erskine’s American-British-Swedish trio with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson between 1992 and 1997: You Never Know, As It Is, Time Being and Juni. If its core concept – a piano led by a drummer – was unorthodox, the group was nonetheless influential, and the recordings provide an excellent environment for appreciating the distinctive writing and playing of John Taylor.
"Avoid the basic concept of the jazz piano trio and make it more groovy, with simple melodies” Iiro Rantala. After the album “My Working Class Hero,” dedicated to John Lennon and “Tears for Esbjörn,” a homage to the influential Swedish pianist, “How Long Is Now?” puts the spotlight fairly and squarely back on to the Finnish pianist, composer and life-force Iiro Rantala. This new trio album with Peter Erskine (drums) and Lars Danielsson (bass) constitutes a many-faceted summing-up of a happy and resoundingly creative phase of Rantala’s life. Rantala says of the new album: “I think this is one of those ‘composition is the king’ kind of projects. The theme, the writing, the mood of the composition are the most important things.” Seven of the thirteen compositions here are by Rantala himself, three tracks by the other players in the trio, and three more are by others who, in their different ways, have helped to construct Rantala’s appealing musical personality.
Drummer Peter Erskine's debut as a leader (originally made for Contemporary and reissued on CD in the OJC series) finds him using top players (most of whom had played with Steps Ahead) in various combinations. Erskine performs a few of his own originals (including an 11-minute "All's Well That Ends" and a short drum solo) plus "My Ship," Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P.," and Bob Mintzer's "Change of Mind." With such musicians as trumpeter Randy Brecker, tenors Michael Brecker and Mintzer, pianist Kenny Kirkland, and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri getting some solo space, this post-bop music (from an often-overlooked set) is of consistent high quality.
Trio M/E/D is also the album recorded by these three great musicians and friends at the close of their 2014 tour of Italy. Word had recently reached us about the untimely passing of Charlie Haden, and Palle Danielsson played a most-touching and rhapsodic tribute to his predecessor in the Keith Jarrett Quartet. Palle’s musical remembrance was the only silver lining to that dark cloud of news, and I was grateful to witness it and to know that it would be preserved for others to hear.
Peter Erskine's group is openly influenced by both Bill Evan's Vanguard trio and Paul Bley's trio circa "Footloose" and "Closer", and brings some of their values into the present tense. At the same time, it has its own distinct character and understanding of dynamics. "As it Is" features works written primarily by John Taylor, with Erskine also contributing material. The group has been heralded for their understated approach to music which is performed with a controlled sense of freedom and simple lyricism.