In June of 2017, drummer Peter Erskine’s fusion-friendly Dr. Um Band laid down new tracks in front of an audience of engineers at Sweetwater Studios in Fort Wayne, Ind. It was literally a master class on the art of recording. Eight weeks later, while working his way through Italy with the same outfit, Erskine was presented with pristine audio from a concert the group gave in Occhiobello. Rather than choose between those complementary studio and stage documents, he opted to release both as a double album.
The first of the two discs presents the music in a controlled environment. Erskine’s adroit stick work, Benjamin Shepherd’s bubbling electric basslines, John Beasley’s shiny keyboard lacquer and Bob Sheppard’s slyly sauntering horns are all captured in their truest states across a program that simmers. The music is airtight, but that precision comes with a downside: The band occasionally seems stifled or fenced in by its own design(s). Beasley’s “If So Then,” a gem marked by fiery grace, is the standout of the bunch and the clearest move away from the emphasis on texture that defines the date.