Peter Erskine & The Dr. Um Band
Fuzzy Music LLC
Master drummer Peter Erskine – always with the measure of taste whether playing small combo, big band or break-neck fusion – here serves up a double-disc of delights; the first disc is a studio set of brand new tunes, the second is a live workout of Dr. Um Band tunes from across the group’s catalogue.
And what a group. Erskine is joined by composer/arranger/keyboardist John Beasley (bandleader in his own right, erstwhile Miles Davis sideman), Bob Sheppard (Steely Dan, Brecker Brothers) on saxophone and electric bassist Benjamin Shepherd.
The opening tunes on the studio disc run the gamut of dark-melody fusion (For The Time Being) to spacey funk (Might As Well Be) and some straight-ahead post-bop jazz (If So Then). The band supply the compositions – all getting a turn to shine as writer of heads, with plenty of space offered for exploration. Beasley’s responsible for a lot of the colour-work, though Sheppard offers a delightful turn on Uncle Don in particular, reminiscent of his Steely Dan work.
The second disc is where the virtuosity really shines, but there’s also a sinewy groove-fest across Hipnotherapy, some 80s-Miles Davis styles on Hawaii Bathing Suit, and Erskine’s lovely, understated brush-work is a feature of Dreamsville.
This is a big-serve of an album, with the final tracks, Eleven Eleven and Northern Cross, stretching out towards quarter of an hour each. Shepherd and Beasley enjoy a musical dance setting up the Headhunters-styled groove on the former, whereas on the closer it’s finally time to give the drummer some. A masterclass from Erskine in groove-statement-soloing closes out a slick-sounding, smart, supple modern jazz album.