Peter Erskine is known for his versatility and love of working in different musical contexts
He began playing the drums at the age of four, and has now been at the forefront of world-class jazz ensembles for 30 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, he 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. His other touring and recording credits (400 albums) 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, Miroslav Vitous and Jan Garbarek; the BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, the ASKO, Avanti & Absolute Ensembles; Bass Desires (with John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson), the John Abercrombie Trio, the Kenny Wheeler Quintet & Big Band, the Bob Mintzer Big Band, the Yellowjackets as well as his own groups, including Trios with John Taylor, Palle Danielsson, Rita Marcotulli, and his current band with Alan Pasqua and Dave Carpenter.
Peter has recorded twelve solo albums: 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. His latest playing ventures include The Lounge Art Ensemble; that group's latest CD is titled Lava Jazz and a piano trio with Alan Pasqua and Dave Carpenter; their double CD Peter Erskine & Alan Pasqua with David Carpenter - Live at Rocco has had rave reviews from the press and fans, and their newest CD is titled Badlands.
Besides touring and recording, Peter is now pursuing new avenues in his career by composing for dance, theatre and animation. 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 1987. 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 for 1989.
His most recent 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 for LA's Matrix Theatre, and the score for the critically-acclaimed Pasadena Playhouse production of Side Man. He has written for animation, and composed the music for the Simon & Schuster books-on-audio series Alien Voices starring Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie of Star Trek fame. Peter was Composer-in-Residence at the famed Hilliard Ensemble's choral workshop in Germany during the summer of 2000, and received a BBC commission to compose his suite Music for Brass and Percussion in 2001.
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 three instructional videos, a performance video titled Peter Erskine Trio/Live at JazzBaltica (Hudson Music) as well as three drum instruction books, the most recent being titled Drumset Essentials, Vol. 1, part of a trilogy of books for Alfred Music Publishing. His other books include Drum Concepts & Techniques and The Drum Perspective, both published by the Hal Leonard Corp. A collection of Peter's compositions has been released in France for worldwide distribution, titled My Book. Peter conducts clinics, classes and seminars world-wide. He teaches at the University of Southern California, and is the Jazz Drumming Consultant to the Royal Academy of Music in London.
He has won the Modern Drummer Magazine Readers' Poll in the Mainstream Jazz Drummer category seven times, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music. Peter 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 and subsequently recorded for the Chandos label.