Big Band Report

The 4th annual Naperville Big Band Jazz Festival will be held on Sat., March 10, at Neuqua Valley High School, 2360 95th St.

The Festival will feature three world-class jazz musician/educators, Peter Erskine, Alexa Tarantino and Louis Dowdeswell, along with the Pete Ellman Big Band.

The guest artists will host two hour-long masterclasses for the students in the morning and will perform with the Pete Ellman Big Band at 1PM on the Main Stage.

Tickets are $15 for adults or $10 for students and seniors.

For information, visit

Jazz Fest organizer Pete Ellman is pictured with Rick Hallbauer and Sue Hallbauer of S&R Monogramming, designers of the commemorative t-shirts that will be available for purchase ($15 each) at Saturday’s concert.

Master Drummer Peter Erskine

Erskine has played the drums since the age of four and is known for his versatility and love of working in different musical contexts. He appears on 700 albums and film scores, and has won two Grammy Awards, plus an Honorary Doctorate from the Berklee School of Music (1992). He played the jazz drumming cues in the Academy Award-winning soundtrack for “La La Land,” and many more film and TV scores.

Fifty albums have been released under Erskine’s own name or as co-leader. He has played with the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson Big Bands, Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Kenny Wheeler, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Brecker Brothers, The Yellowjackets, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton, John Scofield, et al, and has appeared as a soloist with the London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Frankfurt Radio, Scottish Chamber, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony, Oslo and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras.

Erskine premièred the double percussion concerto Fractured Lines, composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, at the BBC Proms with Andrew Davis conducting, and has collaborated frequently with Sir Simon Rattle. He also premiered the Turnage opera “Anna Nicole” at the Royal Opera House in London. Turnage has composed a solo concerto for Erskine titled “Erskine,” which received its world premiere in Bonn, Germany in 2013, with a U.S. premiere at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic.

Erskine has been voted ’Best Jazz Drummer of the Year’ ten times by the readers of Modern Drummer magazine and was elected into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2017. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and studied at Indiana University under George Gaber.

In 1972 Erskine commenced his pro career playing with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Four years later, he joined Maynard Ferguson before working with Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report and moving to Los Angeles. He recorded five albums with the band. He won his first Grammy Award with their album ’8.30’. During this time in LA, he also worked with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Farrell and George Cables. Peter then moved to New York City where he worked for five years with such musicians as Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Eddie Gomez and Eliane Elias in Steps Ahead, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson in the legendary group Bass Desires, the John Abercrombie Trio plus Bob Mintzer’s Big Band.

Erskine has lived in LA since 1987, but has been travelling around the world all of that time, working with such artists as Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Vince Mendoza, Steely Dan, plus European musicians Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Palle Danielsson, John Taylor, Kate Bush, Nguyen Lê, Rita Marcotulli, the Norrbotten Big Band in Sweden plus Sadao Watanabe in Japan. He won his second Grammy Award as the drummer of the WDR big band in Köln along with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Vince Mendoza and others for the “Some Skunk Funk” album.

Meanwhile, Erskine keeps busy in LA with such artists as Alan Pasqua, Bob Sheppard and Bob Mintzer as well as playing in studios. Films where Peter’s drumming can be heard include “Memoirs of a Geisha,” all three of the Austin Powers movies, “The Secret Life of Pets,” plus the title music of the Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaboration, “The Adventures of Tintin” and can be heard on the scores for “Sing,” “Logan” and “House of Cards.”

Erskine produces jazz recordings for his record label, Fuzzy Music, with four Grammy nominations to its credit. He is also an active author with several books to his credit; titles include “No Beethoven (Autobiography & Chronicle of Weather Report),” “Time Awareness for All Musicians,” “Essential Drum Fills,” and his latest book (co-authored with Dave Black for Alfred Publishing), “The Drummers’ Lifeline.” He is also authoring a series of iOS Play-Along apps suitable for all instruments.

Erskine is Professor of Practice and Director of Drumset Studies at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. He plays Tama Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks, Remo Drum Heads, Meinl Percussion, and uses Shure Microphones and Zoom digital recording devices.