An artful, comical drawing of drummer Peter Erskine says it all.
Appearing in the gatefold of Dr. Um (Fuzzy Music, 2016), it
depicts Erskine wearing a lab coat, goggles and rubber gloves while he
performs a “procedure” on a tom.
Personnel on this date are John Beasley, keyboards; Janek Gwizdala,
electric bass; Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone; Jeff Parker, guitar; Larry
Koonse, guitar solo on “Sprite”; Aaron Serfaty, congas, bongo, cowbell
(on “Lost Page”); and Jack Fletcher, voice.
Ambient sounds from a waiting room, with a voice saying, “The doctor
will see you now,” is the track titled, “You’re next.” That sets us up
for “Lost Page,” a cool piece composed by Beasley. Gwizdala’s bass line
is just a shade this side of funk. One can hear hints of fusion-era
groups like Weather Report and the Crusaders. Guitar and sax harmonize
for the melody. Doctor Erskine is in a groove throughout, assisted by
That Weather Report influence is strong on the remake of Joe Zawinul’s
composition, “Bourge Buenos Aires.” Beasley captures some of Zawinul’s
spirit in his handling of the keys. Is that the essence of Jaco
Pastorius in Gwizdala’s play?
In fact, the entire project is a throwback to Erskine’s days of playing
with Weather Report and Steps Ahead. Not only are his performances
reminiscent of that time, but the overall sound of the music is a
tribute to those groups, or even the collaboration of Joe Beck and David
Erskine’s career spans several decades. His track record includes
recordings or performances with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Weather
Report, Steps Ahead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Kenny
Wheeler, the Yellowjackets, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton. He has earned
two Grammy Awards and an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of
When one becomes a fan of an artist, it’s easy to fall into the trap of
eagerly awaiting the next release and loving it no matter what. However,
an artist can get away from a certain aspect of music that establishes
what makes him or her unique. For Erskine, that came in the form of
straying from fusion and R&B drumming. Dr. Um, an obvious play
on words, is Erskine’s return to the kind of drumming that he loves. The
artist says it’s the album that his father, Frederick Adams Erskine, who
is a real doctor, would have wanted him to make.
The set includes five covers, including two of Zawinul’s compositions,
two new songs by Beasley and three by Erskine, plus the opening and
closing voice tracks. Fletcher, who provides the voice in three
spoken-word tracks, also wrote the liner notes.