Peter Erskine began playing the drums at the age of four and has been at the forefront of world-class jazz ensembles for more than 35 years.
His first major professional work was with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, which he joined in 1972. After a three year stint with Kenton and a two-year stay with Maynard Ferguson, Erskine joined Weather Report in 1978. The excellence of the partnership between Erskine and bassist Jaco Pastorius was an integral part of that group’s success.
Following his four years in Weather Report (having recorded five albums with them - including the Grammy Award-winning 8:30), he began to play with Mike Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Don Grolnick and Eddie Gomez in the group Steps Ahead. Erskine’s other touring and recording credits (500 albums and film scores) include Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Gary Burton & Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Kurt Elling, Sadao Watanabe, Eliane Elias, Mike Stern, Kate Bush, Miroslav Vitous and Jan Garbarek; the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ensemble Modern, the ASKO, Avanti, Remix & Absolute Ensembles, Bass Desires (with John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and Marc Johnson), the John Abercrombie Trio, the Kenny Wheeler Quintet & Big Band, the Yellowjackets and the Bob Mintzer Big Band. He has also recorded with his own groups, including trios with John Taylor, Palle Danielsson, Rita Marcotulli, and his current bands with guitarist Nguyen Le and bassist Michel Benita (Trio ELB), as well as a trio he shares with pianist Alan Pasqua.
Erskine’s solo albums include Peter Erskine, Transition, Motion Poet, Sweet Soul, Big Theatre, and his ECM recordings You Never Know, Time Being, As It Is and Juni as well as History of the Drum, Behind Closed Doors and Side Man Blue on his own label Fuzzy Music. Peter is the co-leader of several albums, including Prism with Bill Dobbins and the WDR Big Band, Cologne with Bill Dobbins and John Goldsby, and Dream Flight with Nguyen Le and Michel Benita. The latest release on Fuzzy Music is The Trio featuring Peter, bassist Chuck Berghofer and pianist Terry Trotter.
Erskine’s other playing ventures include The Lounge Art Ensemble with Bob Sheppard on saxophone. That group’s most recent CD is titled Music for Moderns, and a piano trio with Alan Pasqua and Dave Carpenter.
Their double CD Peter Erskine & Alan Pasqua with David Carpenter - Live at Rocco received rave reviews from the press and fans. Their last two CDs are called Badlands and the Grammy-nominated Standards.
Erskine won his second Grammy Award for his work on the Randy & Michael Brecker album Some Skunk Funk (with Vince Mendoza and the WDR Big Band). His CD titled Worth the Wait, recorded with trumpeter Tim Hagans and the Norrbotten Big Band (Sweden) won tremendous praise, and the follow-up CD The Avatar Sessions features Erskine, Hagans and the big band along with guest soloists Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, George Garzone and Rufus Reid.
Besides touring and recording, Erskine is composing for theater, dance, film and television. He has completed musical scores for Shakespeare’s King Richard II and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the latter being honored by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle with the award for the “Best Original Musical Score”. His music for The American Conservatory Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night was awarded by the Bay Area Drama Critics’ Circle as the “Best Dramatic Score”.
Other works for this medium are Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, the dance piece “History of the Drum” (written for the Kokuma Dance Company of Birmingham, England), “The Yield of the Long Bond” and “Honor” for LA’s “Matrix Theatre”, and scores for the Pasadena Playhouse productions of “Side Man” and “Defiance”. He has written for animation including “Gun Smith Cats”, and composed the music for the Simon & Schuster books-on-audio series “Alien Voices” starring Leonard Nimoy and John deLancie of Star Trek fame.
Peter was Composer-in-Residence at the famed Hilliard Ensemble’s choral workshop in Germany in 2000, and received a BBC commission to compose the suite “Music for Brass and Percussion”. Additional commissions include a piece for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and marimba soloist Colin Currie, plus a percussion ensemble piece written in memory of Nexus co-founder John Wyre (“A Bird Sings”).
Erskine is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and studied percussion with George Gaber at Indiana University. His own pedagogical efforts include four instructional videos as well as eight books, including: “Drumset Essentials, Vols. 1, 2 & 3 “ (a trilogy of instructional methods), plus the “Erskine Method” book and DVD, “Essential Drum Fills” and “Time Awareness for All Musicians” (published by Alfred Music Publishing). Erskine’s other books include “Drum Concepts & Techniques” and “The Drum Perspective”, both published by the Hal Leonard Corp.
Erskine conducts clinics, classes and seminars worldwide. He is the Director of Drumset Studies at the USC Thornton School of Music, and is the Jazz Drumming Consultant to the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Erskine has won the Modern Drummer magazine Readers’ Poll in the “Jazz Drummer” category ten times, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music. He was the soloist along with Evelyn Glennie at the world premiere of a new Double Concerto for Percussion titled “Fractured Lines,” composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, in London at the Proms in July 2000 with Sir Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. That work was recorded for the Chandos label.
Erskine is 55-years-old, and makes his home in Southern California.