"If such a thing as virtuosic understatement is possible, Peter Erskine's band makes it real. The drummer's trio excels at the arts of suspension, simple lyricism and meaning implied beyond the music committed to tape. Notes are left to resonate and shimmer in the air." - Ottawa Citizen
"A sense of continuous invention exists with the notion of 'we always solo but we never solo', an apt description. Minimal structures offer maximum opportunities for tonal expression and 'deep listening'...Erskine's trio music is deceiving. Up close, its spareness belies easy description." - Down Beat
"The Erskine Trio is the equal of the more fabled Jarrett/Peacock/DeJohnette group and the level of inspiration and musicianship is every bit as high." - Jazz On CD
"Limning the introspective spirit of Bill Evans, this trio led by drummer Erskine has produced a record of shimmering, poetic beauty. All facets of composition, improvisation and sound come together here in service of a lyricism rarely heard." - Billboard
"Sombre, sad and exquisitely beautiful, Peter Erskine's music goes beyond mere tunes and riffs; it is art. " - Modern Drummer
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Juni is the fourth album by the subtle piano trio led by the drummer who first made his presence felt as the driving force behind the big bands of Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson and the high-octane electric jazz of Weather Report - contexts at the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum from the music heard here. The Erskine Trio overturns all expectations associated with drummer-led bands. It is never a vehicle for the flaunting of technique, it is free of bluster, and the larger gesture is at a premium. "Zen-like" was Down Beat's description of its debut album "You Never Know" (recorded 1992), implying that much of its power resides in the not-played. The trio's work pays close attention to space and texture, or what Erskine refers to as the "underside of music-making."
Although Erskine continues to play in diverse groups, works diverse idioms, and his discography now numbers in excess of 250 albums he maintains that this trio with British pianist John Taylor and Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson is the most satisfying of formats for him. "I never expected to end up here, In a [Bill] Evans-inspired piano trio. Early experiences with piano trios were problematic for me, because the pianist's left hand seemed to block me in and restrict my freedom. But John Taylor is rhythmically so open that it's really stimulating to play with him. He's always improvising, no matter where we are in the tune."
At the outset, Erskine gave his fellow musicians just a single directive: "I said to them: from time to time, let's take the music to a level that brings the audience to the edge of their seats, straining to hear what's going on. The forming of this trio was partly a reaction to a lot of stuff that's out there. There's so much music that's just thrown at you, and it's loud and it has no real dynamic range and all the spaces in the music are filled up. I wanted to oppose that trend."
Erskine first began to reflect upon the idea of a group with John Taylor as early as the mid-1980s when, as a member of John Abercrombie's Trio, he played opposite Taylor's Azimuth group (with Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler in a New York club). Integrated into Kenny Wheeler's big band and quintet for the albums Music for Large and Small Ensembles and The Widow in the Window, Erskine was able to work closely with Taylor and the relationship was further developed in freelance contexts. "The more I got to play on John Taylor's compositions, the more I was impressed by the depth of his writing."
Taylor has come to be the trio's principal composer, but all band members write. Erskine's pieces on the present record include "Twelve", which makes elegant use of a 12-tone melody. The piece indirectly provided the album title, "Juni" being the Japanese for twelve (the reference is not, as some have already assumed, to the German for the month of June).
The tradition of incorporating a Kenny Wheeler piece continues with "For Jan" (not Garbarek, to quash another common assumption, but a relative of the Canadian trumpeter), a piece Erskine - and Taylor - previously played as members of the Wheeler Big Band. Older ECM history is also touched upon by the inclusion of Taylor's "Windfall", once in the repertoire of the Miroslav Vitous Group, and recorded with that ensemble in 1982 on the album Journey's End.
Since the release of As It Is almost three years ago, the trio members have been active on many fronts. Erskine has recently worked with composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, performing his piece Blood On The Floor in several countries, released two books (the newest being The Drum Perspective), written music for the books-on-audio series "Alien Voices" based on classic science-fiction texts by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, launched his own CD label Fuzzy Music, played a reunion gig with other Stan Kenton alumni, and participated in tribute recordings dedicated to Frank Sinatra, to Thelonious Monk, and to Jaco Pastorius.
John Taylor continues to work extensively with John Surman - a musical relationship that has lasted 30 years - and appeared on his prize-winning Proverbs and Songs and Stranger Than Fiction albums (making his debut as improvising church organist on the former). Other recent appearance have included concerts with Kenny Wheeler (including the Berlin Festival premiere of Wheeler's "Mirrors" project based on texts by Stevie Smith), with saxophonist Julian Argüelles, and with trombonist Henning Berg and inter-active computer programme.
Palle Danielsson has toured widely of late with two quite different ECM ensembles - improvising around the traditional music of Scandinavia with the Nordan project of singer Lena Willemark and multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller, and playing the music of the great Polish film music composer Krzysztof Komeda in the "Litania" sextet led by trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. A group player par excellence, revered by bassists everywhere for his contributions to such bands as Keith Jarrett's "Belonging", the Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet, and Charles Lloyd's early-80s groups - all of them benefiting from Palle's sense for the essential, and his unerring choice of notes - Danielsson has only recently begun to step out as a bandleader. In Sweden, he currently leads his own group Contra Post, with drummer Anders Kjlellberg, pianist Rita Marcotulli and saxophonist Joakim Milder.