May 8 2015
Regarded by many as the most formidable drummer alive, Eric Harland has been the rhythmic catalyst for many of the definitive jazz recordings of the past 15 years, a groove muse whose stunning power and fluency on the kit has inspired Charles Lloyd, McCoy Tyner, Greg Osby, Terence Blanchard and many other jazz masters.
Respectful of jazz tradition without being constrained by it, Harland has recently emerged as an ambitious composer, melding improvised music with traces of hip hop, neo-soul and post-rock through his live debut album Live by Night and 2014’s Vipassana.
We caught up with Eric ahead of his residency at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club over the Opening Weekend of MIJF 2015.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a jazz musician?
My mom told me that when I was 8 years old, I told her that was going to be a musician and travel the world. I still marvel at this.
Who are your greatest musical influences?
Honestly John Coltrane is definitely the top, but I'm influenced by all great music. So many have put love in this art form.
Where does your musical inspiration come from?
I'm inspired by music itself. It has a way of inviting everyone (that's willing) into an infinite space of true connection.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to everything I can. I checkout everyone that comes across my path. It's all great in all its diversity. The freedom of expression in music is magical.
How have you found taking on the role of bandleader on this recent album?
It's wonderful to have the avenue to express yourself. But musically speaking, I don't classify myself as a band leader. I can't lead anyone, I can only participate in the musical conversation that's present. With this in mind, when I approach a project under my name, I have ideas of what might be possible, but I remain open to what happens. VIPASSANA was exactly that. Loads of ideas, but the magic truly happened after discovering everyone's natural musical approach to my ideas.
Responsibility wise, band leading can be a lot of work. You have to be up for the challenge of putting forth the effort of getting your vision to come to life... with respecting those who are helping you get there as well.
Can you tell us a little bit about the other members of your band performing in Melbourne - Walter Smith III (saxophone), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Julian Lage (guitar), Harish Raghavan (double bass)
Walter is an very gifted, intuitive individual and musician. Houston born, I've known him since he was shorter than me...lol…He has the ability to play exactly what you hear, but also deliver it in his own unique way. He's a brother of character and is also truly hilarious.
Taylor is a true orchestrator of harmony and space. He's sensitive enough to understand what, when, where and why in every musical space. He's also a prodigy. We stared playing when he was still in his teens. He's always had the transcendent spirit.
Julian is a purpose maker. He throws out a series of amazing ideas in every moment that can creatively be used as new directions. Such a wonderful soul and completely present.
Harish is the instigator, he loves creating the needed turbulence in the musical moment. His rhythmic and harmonic intelligence offers him the freedom to create counter references to any presented idea that's in motion. A true genius of his instrument. CHICAGO..!
How do you see the future of jazz?
Jazz is fine, it's will always have its existence. There will always be players and lovers of its beautiful art form.