Flawed digital format
Great book as far as content is concerned but I've not been able to update. Humm. Certainly makes me want to think twice about purchasing books from the already more expensive iBooks...
A magnum opus of jazz biography
By Alfred North Whitehead
This book is a riveting autobiography of one of my personal musician-heroes: drumming master Peter Erskine. The book is hard to put down. I actually had to slow down reading it to make it last! It has all the elements of the human condition in it: joy, pain, laughter, sorrow, peace, stress, working hard for a goal, love gained and lost, wisdom, jealousy, pride, humility, greed, unselfishness… you know, stuff in Shakespeare.
Being a fan of Peter Erskine and a drummer myself, I found this articulate autobiography up there with the greatest biographies I have read in jazz. You really get to see what kind of investment he and his parents made to get Peter a solid foundation. You get to see Peter behind the scenes as he rose to jazz fame in the late 70's and early 80's.
You also get to read amazing stories that happened to Peter with various other people and jazz legends. It's quite an eye-opener with lots of humor and salt scattered throughout the book. It's really fun as a drummer to see Pete schmoozing with Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones among many other musicians and drummers.
The pictures are plentiful and quite personal. You get to see pictures of Pete when he was a child, his family, early gigs, endorsement photos, concert photos, intimate back stage and hotel photos, all kinds of photos that give a portrait into what happens when someone as talented as Erskine shoots for a goal and makes it.
Some of the wisdom in this book is refreshing as well as enlightening. One such moment is from Pete's wife who gives Pete Yoda-like sage advice upon discovering that Pete is to follow Dennis Chambers at a drummer festival. I won't spoil it for you but needless to say it is sage advice for anyone who is likely to face a competition. Pete is terrified of the aspect of following Dennis on stage (who wouldn't be?) and his wife gives the appropriate advice. It was a wonderful story and Peter was quite well and able to follow Dennis at this event with great success.
If you are a fan of Weather Report, fusion music, Jaco or the groundbreaking band Steps Ahead, this book is an absolute must-read.
If you are a drummer, again a must-read.
Finally I'd like to say this is the first iPad book I've ever read. The format is exceptional. Pete used the book as a receptacle for pictures, tons of pictures, movies, a few soundtracks and text. I was blown away by the iPad book experience. The cost of the book was far worth the price, I got my money's worth!
At 600+ pages, my only complaint was it wasn't long enough! You get the feeling Peter could go on continuously with stories for the next 1000 pages. The guy has a million stories, I get the feeling. But overall, bravo! This book has many facets to it and is a portrait of the American dream done well. If you are a serious musician the book will also pack emotional overtones particular to your own experience, so I highly recommend!
Parents if you are considering more serious pursuits with a talented child in your midst, this book could be very helpful revealing to you how much preparation is involved in producing a prodigy who blooms into a modern master. But the whole pushing thing, I don't think Peter was pushed into this… he wanted it from an early age. I don't think it would've worked had he been pushed. This is a story about an enthused child who was nurtured and not pushed as far as I can tell.
If you are into stories of other jazz heroes you are in for a treat. Erskine talks about Warren Bernhardt, Steve Gadd, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon, Maynard Fergusson, Peter Donald, Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick, Will Lee, Dave Carpenter, Chick Corea, and former teachers to name just a few. It is story-candy for the jazz enthusiast.
You even get to read stories of Pete's rejections by other jazz greats which I found fascinating. You'd think getting into Weather Report is enough street cred for anyone. Not so. I was hopelessly nieve about this aspect of life and music. Just because you get to the top doesn't mean someone doesn't want to knock you down a little. Hearing these stories is food for thought.
I enjoyed every page of this book and the quantity of pictures was generous.
This book is destined to become a classic in jazz biography, I am sure of that. Peter Erskine is not only one of the great innovating drummers of modern times, he is a composer, producer, businessman, dedicated family man and husband, friend, teacher and a writer with crisp prose, similar to his drumming. Go figure.
A+++++++ thank you Peter Erskine for a most marvelous book, entertaining and very educational and packed with stories of the human condition.
Meaningful and Delightful
By C. Thomas Mitchell
First, I want to say that I loved this book. It was thoughtful, insightful, imaginative, innovative, and honest (but not brutally so). This is the first iBooks I’ve seen that really leverages all the multiple modes available – text, images, slideshows, and videos – in a way that enhances, rather than distracting from, the content.
The book flows well and is creatively organized, alternating between short chapters on Erskine’s experience in jazz supergroup Weather Report – the hook of the book – and a chronological review of his development as a musician and a person. Erskine was somewhat of a prodigy, attending Indiana University, Bloomington’s summer jazz camp at age nine (along with subsequent jazz notables including, from either end of the spectrum, Keith Jarrett and Dave Sanborn).
Amazingly, having traveled around the world many times and moved back and forth between the coasts, Erskine has retained memorabilia – photos, programs, album covers, and posters – from throughout his life and career. These are all in remarkably good condition and show beautifully on an iPad’s retina display.
The book’s title, No Beethoven, is drawn from Weather Report co-leader Joe Zawinul’s statement concerning his (then) controversial approach to music, “I ain’t afraid of no Beethoven.” Weather Report is one of the few bands from what was then known as the “jazz rock” or “fusion” era whose music can still be listened to with enjoyment today. In fact, stripped of that context, to me anyway, the music sounds even better.
As the stories conveyed in the book reveal, there was plenty of “personality” in Weather Report – individually and collectively. Joe Zawinul, in particular, comes across as a real piece of work, but one who was also regarded somewhat of a genius by Erskine. In spite of Zawinul’s eccentricities, Erskine had a lot of respect and even affection for (though the latter view was tested a few times both during and after the dissolution of the band).
Wayne Shorter comes across as a highly enigmatic figure, taciturn but insightful. Erskine’s mother perhaps summed him up best after an initial meeting. She turned to her son and said quietly, “Is this guy for real?”
The saddest part of the book is the gradual deterioration of the brilliant bass player Jaco Pastorius’ mental health. The book emphasizes his musical and personal qualities, and his mischievousness, but his ultimate fate -- to be severely beaten outside a Florida nightclub by a bouncer, looms in the background throughout. He died in hospital of his injuries at age 35.
Notably, but not uncharacteristically, Erskine is always complementary to the percussionists brought in to play alongside him in the band. This book, and his playing, reflects his very open mind and accepting attitude that may come from being, literally, a complementary player -- in Weather Report and in a wide variety of other settings. In jazz his work ranges from the crystalline purity of his work on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, through to the mainstream, and he even plays in somewhat “liter” jazz settings on occasion. Throughout his education and career Erskine also has worked in orchestral settings; learning to “read” music in that way proved, he says, to be a great advantage. The book recounts studio and road work with, among others, Diana Krall, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart, film music composer John Williams, and briefly, and amusingly, on a stillborn Barry Manilow produced project.
Though Erskine comes across as a humble person and a generally jolly soul, there is an interesting undercurrent of conflict conveyed throughout the book, perhaps a natural outcome of the creative process, rather than purely a result of ego collisions.
My favorite example of this type related to a recording session for a piano trio that, interestingly, Erskine was the “leader” of. It featured Scot John Taylor on piano and Swede Palle Danielsson on bass. They recorded four disks for Munich-based ECM Records, the first three of which were excellent. As for the fourth, the book describes the initial run through as being tense. Taylor pretended not to be able (or at least willing) to put his hands on the keyboard and play the tune written by Erskine. When questioned about this Taylor said, “Peter, this would work perfectly in a Clint Eastwood film…[T]he one with the bridges in Madison County. After all, Peter, you HAVE been living in Hollywood for some time now and…” Suitably rebuked, Erskine suggested they try another approach by turning to one of Taylor’s compositions. This one elicited the comment from Erskine, “You know, that would work terrifically well in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.” Not surprisingly, Erskine reports, things went downhill from there (though he has subsequently worked with both Taylor and Danielsson).
The book is, as the sub-title states, both an autobiography and a chronicle -- of life in Weather Report and at the forefront of the music business in a variety of settings. No Beethoven is, essentially, self-published by a small team Erskine assembled and can serve as an inspiration to others who’ve considered working in this format but who may have thought it too demanding.
Though Erskine doesn’t belabor them, clear themes can be identified that unify the book: the role of a supportive family – his parents, wife(s), and children feature prominently; the importance of a rich and varied education – the one he received and the help he provides others now as a mentor, tutor, and professor (and the University of Southern California); and the importance of integrity. Finally, and most importantly, throughout the book Erskine presents a key and central concept, and something that will benefit everyone, musicians or not -- importance of listening. Throughout his life Erskine recounts that whenever he’s needed to cut through his own “stuff” to do what the situation requires, he focuses simply on careful listening as his guide.
Excellent material and use of the media
By Remo Evans
It goes without saying that this is a book filled with well written stories and insights from one of the worlds foremost percussionists. It's also a terrific use of mixed media that shows what a modern book experience can really be. Musical biographies like Peter's can be told very well when we can read, see and HEAR his experiences as we go. Great music, great musicians, great perspectives, all presented in a delightful package. Bravo.
Buy this book
Just got done reading No Beethoven.....a must read for jazz lovers and musicians (of all genres) alike. Talk about being taken along for the ride....! Mr. E. tells it like I've never really heard it told before, like we are hanging tell g stories.....I felt jet-lagged myself several times at the end of anecdotes from the road! And, aside from all the WR stories, aside from getting to know Jaco, Joe, and Wayne (and Stan, Maynard and all the greats) from an angle very few could provide.....aside from all the killer A/V and photos.....aside from ALL THAT......the reason I recommend this book so strongly:
....while reading the stories I found myself assessing my own playing experiences and thinking about how I might handle those situations, thinking about not overplaying and serving the music, thinking about what a gift it is to be a drummer (substitute your axe here) and to be in touch with music. The book took me down those deeper paths.
Thanks Peter! On a side note y'all, I have lived in Japan for 10 years now and Mr. E. gets the Japanese experience right as well.
On so many levels this book is one that, if you've gotten this far reading my review, push the buy button, you must have it. Oh yeah, the Erskine Jazz Essentials app is also killer, it's in my regular practice rotation, check that out too kids!
Great insights and tales of the road
I read it cover to cover and could hardly put it down. The story of an amazing musician, who went from being a child prodigy sitting in with the likes of Stan Kenton's big band, to touring with some of the biggest and most innovative musicians of his time. Backstage road stories, personal moments of enlightenment, musical successes and a lot of fun; all coming alive in a very natural writing style.
A treasure trove for Weather Report fans
If you are a fan of WR or a fan of Peter Erskine, you must read this book. It is simply jammed packed with cool stories about the music and musicians we love. When I look at Erskine's career, I am struck by how many of my absolute favorite artists he has played with. There's of course, a reason for that-Peter always plays what's needed, is versatile can be, and seems to consistently have a fresh take on things. No wonder he is in such high demand.
Erskine has a friendly, conversational tone to his writing. Rather than being laid out chronologically, the book alternates between functioning as a straight ahead biography, yet periodically circles back to those special years with Weather Report. While those chapters are the high point for this reader, I enjoyed reading about Peter's growth as an artist and human being. He is humble and self effacing at times, and always honest. There are more than a few laugh out loud stories.
For Weather Report fans, there is almost an embarrassment of riches here. Just the sheer number of photos from their three tours in Japan makes it worth the price of admission.
The book also takes advantage of being an ebook and adds some multi media to the mix. Erskine seems to have saved virtually every newspaper clipping and photo from his entire career! So there is all kinds of interesting memorabilia to check out. I also appreciated the inclusion of audio and occasional videos of some of the bands Eskine played with, Ferguson, Kenton etc. There is also some spoken word audio taken from interviews and speeches that is very informative and at times, very moving.
The only criticism I have thus far (I'm only about 1/2 way thru,) are several chapters devoted to the instruments and endorsements Erskine has received over the years. While this might be fascinating information for drummer geeks, I found these chapters somewhat tedious and skimmed over some of the details. I get the importance of Zildjan in moving the music forward and how important that relationship was, but really, in my opinion some of this was a clear cut case of TMI.
Overall, I find it difficult to put this book down. I highly recommend it to lovers of contemporary jazz and in particular, lovers of Weather Report. Thanks so much to Peter Erskine for his contributions to the music and this generous gift to fans.
This is one of those books that if' you're a fan of modern Jazz, especially Weather Report, you won't be able to put down. It has always been pretty clear to me that Peter is an insanely great drummer, and this gives the reader a real "fly on the wall" perspective on modern jazz as it was coming into focus during the age of Weather Report. Not only is Peter an unparalleled drummer, he's a pretty damned good writer as well.
Read it in two days!
By Peter LaCasse
Excellent book in a slick package with tons of pictures, audio/video clips, and other extras! I've been an Erskine fan for years and I'm delighted to get the inside scoop on so many of the great bands and colorful characters he has worked with. It's also inspiring to read about how Peter was able to build so much success in music and never lose sight of the importance of family.
Weather Report And More
By Curt Bianchi
I'm a fan of Weather Report and I purchased this book largely because of that. It's packed with Peter's stories and behind-the-scene anecdotes about the band, Joe, Wayne and Jaco--not to mention tons of photos. That said, this is a book about Peter Erskine's life and I read it from start to finish and thoroughly enjoyed it. Peter's writing style is engaging and along the way he imparts pearls of wisdom about being a musician and about life. A must read for Weather Report fans, and also for anyone interested in Peter and the many musicians he has worked with over the years. Now I need to go find those late-eighties Peter Erskine CDs squirreled away in my office and give them a spin!