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Listening Post: Peter Erskine’s Trio with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson collected

JAZZ

Peter Erskine Trio with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson “As It Was” (ECM Old and New Series, three discs). It almost goes without saying that pianist John Taylor was not on the same level as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau and Michel Petrucciani. But among the unquestionable recent lyric masters of jazz piano he was as underrated as he was very, very busy. He died in 2015 after suffering a heart attack while performing at a French Jazz Festival. Before then, he made 80 records, a huge number of them with Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records, including those with the singular trio Azimuth with his vocalist first wife Norma Winstone and the haunting trumpet player from St. Catharines, the late Kenny Wheeler. The trio that is heard in this box set from ECM records recorded four records (heard on three discs here) throughout the ’90s (1992-1997) in a major effort to give terrific jazz drummer Peter Erskine an entirely different context on record from his work with Weather Report. This is Erskine almost playing free drums in the manner of Paul Motian, with Taylor as the pianist whose subtlety and group sense allows for so much color from the drummer. In such a group, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson completes an ideal musical triangle. Anyone awaiting the keyboard bravado of the omni-pianists who followed in Bill Evans’ wake won’t find it in John Taylor. But in this context, he was the post-Evans British pianist that was the closest to such older American bebop poets as Hank Jones, Al Haig and Barry Harris. This was a fine trio. The records collected in this box set are “You Never Know” released in 1993, “Time Being” released in 1994, “As It Is” from 1996 and “Juini” from 1999. ŒŒŒ out of four. (Jeff Simon)

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