He was born in Somers Point, New Jersey, U.S.. He began playing the drums at the age of four. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, then studied percussion at Indiana University. His professional career started in 1972 when he joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra. After three years with Kenton he joined Maynard Ferguson for two years. In 1978 he joined Weather Report, joining the legendary Jaco Pastorius to form a formidable rhythm section. After four years and five albums with Weather Report he joined Steps Ahead. His big band recordings with the Bob Mintzer Big Band are excellent modern big band jazz/funk studied by many students of drums and drumming.
His music-style spanning talent also features on Kate Bush's 2005 album Aerial, where Erskine teams with bass player Eberhard Weber. Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Queen Latifah and Linda Ronstadt among many more still choose Peter for his multifaceted musicality. Even Scottish and Finnish Classical Orchestras have had him as a featured musician. He is currently on the music faculty at the University of Southern California.
Erskine has enjoyed a long and successful career as a session drummer, recording and touring with many top jazz and rock artists, including Steely Dan. He also releases very influential teaching materials, both in his excellent books as in videos and DVDs, even online.
His playing style is characterized by a thorough dedication on time-keeping and swing, a great dynamic spectrum and an ability to play several styles of music very sensitively. These qualities may be the reason for his very wide use as a session drummer in musical settings of great variety. Hence he could also be labeled as an "all-around drummer", in terms of musical styles he is capable of playing with skill.
As a jazz-drummer, his dedication to timekeeping makes his jazz playing sound quite modern, as he does not tend to play "flexible" timekeeping as most of traditionalist jazz drummers. It remains a matter of personal opinions to be discussed whether he has thus brought jazz into the modern era of perfect timekeeping (a reference here is made to drum machines and electronic music with flawless metronomical timekeeping of today), or whether he diverges from traditional jazz drumming.
Erskine is good friends with Vinnie Colaiuta, another versatile drummer held in extremely high regard.
The Erskine Method for Drumset (Alfred Publishing Company)
Restrained but still stylish mix; Peter Erskine at the CBSO Centre Peter Erskine & The Creative Jazz Orchestra CBSO Centre.(review)
May 28, 2001; Byline: Martin Longley This was the second performance of the old Weather Report drummer's Music For Brass & Percussion,...
THE INTERVIEW: Peter Erskine - Just by Surviving, He Beat the Odds. Now He Must Brave the Third Age of Mobiles ; the mmO2 Boss Tells Clayton Hirst That Hutchison 3g's Punt Was `Foolish', but That Doesn't Mean He's Given Up on the Technology
May 23, 2004; Peter Erskine has good reason to feel pleased with himself. This time last year, the chief executive of mobile phone company mmO2...