Peter Erskine was already a 24-year-old big-band badass when he joined Weather Report in 1978, and his powerful, full-bodied sound helped the band reach the peak of its commercial success during his four-year tenure. Erskine’s celebrated career after WR—as a session drummer/percussionist, artist/composer, and educator—has been filled with a long list of great bass players, including his nephew Damian Erskine, Gordon Johnson (brother of Jimmy), all-around L.A. monster Dave Carpenter, session god Will Lee, upright icons Marc Johnson and Eddie Gomez, L.A. bass legend Chuck Berghofer, Swedish first-call bassist Palle Danielsson, and fellow Weather Report alum Victor Bailey. Fortunately for us, Erskine’s memory is sharp, and his breezy, brazenly honest 320-page memoir is filled with juicy stories, humor, gratitude, and wisdom that will appeal to aspiring professionals and veterans alike.
The bassist most associated with Erskine, of course, is Jaco Pastorius, his rhythm-section partner in Weather Report, in Joni Mitchell’s Mingus band, on Jaco’s late-career classics Word of Mouth and Invitation, as well as on the posthumous Birthday Concert. “Jaco stories” are as numerous and diverse as the crowds who flocked to see him, but few knew “The World’s Greatest Bass Player” as well as Erskine, and even fewer are capable of creating a truly balanced portrait of Jaco, one that sheds great insight into the reasons why he remains such a polarizing figure. As a bonus, the digital edition of No Beethoven overflows with sumptuous and rare Weather Report images, a visual feast that perfectly complements the inspiring story of one of the most accomplished and popular drummers of the late 20th century