New Year Post 4: A few words of fan mail to the erstwhile Erksine trio

End of year/ New Year lists tradition seems to demand the best of highlights from the previous year.  An unquestionable highlight for me was a re-release.  My first ‘new year post’ nodded at sounds that lured me jazz-wards.  It wasn’t long after that I discovered the trio led by Peter Erskine, then in the midst of a run of 4 albums recorded on ECM between 1992 and 1997 (You Never Know, Time Being, As It Is,  Juni).  Something about the trio and its sound  transfixed me with, at different times, one or another of the albums on repeat.  ECM released all four as a set halfway through the year under the title As It Was (ha ha).   asitwasWhat a delight it was to review it for London Jazz. My recollection was that I’d held the instinctive gushing of a fan back: reading the review I’m not sure I entirely succeeded.  Never mind.   The plan for this post is to give it full rein.  Listening to the albums again I realised that I’ve never stop listening to them. They’ve become another bit my personal soundtrack.  Its seems also that the sound of the trio has become a unique reference point for other listening.

Since this is a blogpost, I thought a ‘listicle’ was in order, albeit breaking the rules with the omission of numbers.

Things I love about the Peter Erskine Trio

  • How Peter Erskine, the drummer leader, is often hardly playing (try New Old Age on the first album, You Never Know; nearly two minutes before there’s a shimmer of a cymbal)
  • How rhythmic and grooving are so many of these pieces… even though it sounds abstract and floating at first listen, with Erskine hardly playing, just ticking on a cymbal or rustling on a snare.  (Almost anything but try For Ruth on As It Is
  • How repeating, quite abstract phrases, usually the themes of pieces, have little twists of ‘catch your breath’ melody,  and become like old friends after a few listens. (John Taylor’s Windfall on Juni is a bit like this)
  • Bursts of lyricism, like beams of sunlight ( How about Esperanca and Touch Her Soft Lips and Part on As It Is or Liten Visa Til Karin on Time Being)
  • Eruptions of blistering swing that seem to to build like a huge ocean swell (try Everything I Love on You Never Know or Twelve on Juni

But more than anything

  • Its John Taylor – the touch, the way just one chord both stretches your ears, makes your heart flutter and foot tap. How did he do that?
  • And Palle Danielsson. The perfectly placed bass note that opens up the harmony and sounds so rich
  • And the three of them together. Sometimes the music sounds like them breathing steadily as one (try Liten Visa again)

I know I’m not alone in loving these albums, but when music works its magic on us we may be sharing it, but it becomes part of us.  So this is my music as well now.  Thanks Peter, John and Palle.

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