Jazz en Dominicana interviews Damian Erskine

Damian Erskine visits Santo Domingo on July 28th

Jazz en Dominicana interviews Damian Erskine

The second of five concerts that make up the 2010 version on the World Jazz Circuit Latin America is the Peter Erskine New Trio featuring Damian Erskine and Vardan Ovsepian. These concerts are to be held in the Dominican Republic, Chile and Argentina – the first will be on Wednesday July 28th in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – produced by Jazz en Dominicana and bajoCONSTRUCTION Musik. Jazz en Dominicana publishes the entire Damian Erskine interview for its readers.

Damian Erskine is not your ordinary bass player. While not touring, he is honing his chops with some of the best jazz and latin musicians the West coast has to offer. He is known for his ability to fit into any musical situation as well as his extraordinary reading and improvising skills. Damian has played in the studio or on the stage with the likes of: Peter Erskine, Teri-Lynn Carrington, Gino Vannelli, John Ellis, Shawn Pelton, Luis Conte, Les McCann, Jeff Lorber, Vardan Ovsepian, Charmaine Neville, Luis Perdomo, Tony Furtado, Bobby Torres, Alan Jones, Patrick Lamb and many others. Whether playing as a sideman or with his own group, he is known for his rock solid bass work, virtuosic solos and thoughtful chordal abilities.

Jazz en Dominicana (JenD): Damian firstly thanks for taking the time for this interview. To begin, let’s have in your own words – how do you describe yourself?
Damian Erskine (DE): I describe myself as a groove player first and foremost. While I've worked hard to be versatile and play different genre's of music with authenticity and style, I am really a funk guy at heart!

JenD: How has your musical journey been? Which are your favorite genres to play?
DE: I've played music all of my life. I wouldn't have it any other way. My favorite genres are Funk & Latin primarily. I also love a great songwriter, tho!

JenD: Who were your influences?
DE: My uncle, Peter Erskine for sure...Jaco, Richard Bona, Marc Johnson, Dave Holland, Etienne Mbappe. I just love good music!

JenD: What’s it like playing with Vanelli and then with Lorber and then Peter?
DE: Each of those guys is so good at what they do...playing with strong performers really helps me to elevate my own playing. While all three of those artists are completely different stylistically, the one common thread is a maintaining a high level of musicality and loving the life of music.

JenD: Share with your views of the influences that latin America and it’s culture and rhythms are having on Jazz today.
DE: I feel that I really began to come into my own musically once I started hearing the music of both South America and Africa. The tradition and language is so strong and runs so deep. I play at a Peruvian restaurant here in Portland, Oregon with some Peruvian musicians and I've learned SO much through the discovery of this music. For me, I'm struck primarily by the rhythmic language and it really doesn't get any better than in South America.

JenD: What are your present projects?
DE: I have been pursuing my own group (Damian Erskine Project) as well as playing with many different song-writers locally, the Bobby Torres Salsa Band in addition to dozens of various local groups spanning many genres.

JenD: Bassist, composer, arranger, teacher – a man of many hats – which do you prefer and why?
DE: (smiles) Bassist! I love nothing more than traveling the world, making great music with great people.

JenD: How did you get invited to play with the Peter Erskine New Trio?
DE: I was in LA for the NAMM show (National Association of Music Merchants) which is a very large trade show full of musicians and most major manufacturers of the gear we use, and Peter called and asked me to swing by his house before flying home. I met with Peter and Vardan and we played through a few tunes so they could feel out the music with an electric bassist. I guess they liked it!

JenD: Tell us of your experiences with the New Trio? What is it like to have players such as Peter and Vardan alongside?
DE: This will be my first outing with this group. I hope for many more! Peter is a living legend. I also have the benefit of having grown up watching him play and it's truly a dream come true to stand next to him on stage. I never thought that would happen as a kid. Vardan is truly one of the new voices in jazz. I just know that I will not only enjoy myself thoroughly but, more importantly, will learn an incredible amount creating in the moment with these two astounding musicians.

JenD: Of your four recordings, which is your favorite and why?
DE: Of my personal CDs, I'd have to say that "So To Speak" (my most recent) is my favorite only because it most accurately reflects where I am musically at this moment.

JenD: You will be playing in Santo Domingo this upcoming July 28th as you kick off the second concert of the World Jazz Circuit Latin America 2010-2011. This will be your first time in this Caribbean island, and then to South America - how do you feel about it?
DE: I couldn't be more excited to experience Santo Domingo and it's beautiful people in person. I'm quite thrilled with the venues and cities we'll be visiting on this short trip. While I've spent time in Europe and have been all over North America, this will be my first trip to South America. I've long been an admirer of the South American culture in every regard. Having the opportunity to travel there and do what I love is a living dream.

JenD: What do you expect from your the New Trio for this concert? What have you prepared?
DE: Both Peter and Vardan operate at the highest of levels artistically at all times. I expect this to be a magical experience! All three of us will be bringing our own compositions to the table. I truly look forward to hearing my music interpreted by these masters of their craft.

JenD: Finally, what do you expect of the experience? The crowd?
DE: I expect that the audience will have as much fun as we will!

With those words we finished our interview with this exciting bassist, our thanks to him and we wish him well on his projects and endeavors.

The Peter Erskine New Trio featuring Damian Erskine and Vardan Ovsepian concert will be held at the Amber Ball Room of the Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Wednesday, July 28th as part of the World Jazz Circuit Latin America 2010-2011. From there the trio will continue to venues in Chile and Argentina.

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Fernando Rodriguez