Eric Harland: Searching the Patterns in Life
"So growing up in music, because when I came to New York, I came with this crazy style so a lot of people did have something to say," Harland says. "So, I always had it in my mind; it didn't kind of veer me in any directions I didn't want to go. I got a lot of information from a lot of people; I got a lot of information not from what people would say but from how they acted, because that was something you couldn't use words to describe; you only had to be there to witness.
"Because I always felt words can be manipulated, and because everyone's trying to be [careful] speakers, you never know if it's organic and coming out of a person or if it's something that's more practiced," Harland continues. "So for me, someone's body language is organic; you can work on it, it's still you. So I just tended to trust more in the way people would behave or the sounds in their music and then the feeling I would get from being in their presence. I think at times, you can still tell if it's real or [not] ... if it's more organic. I just tended to trust more in the way people would behave and then the felling that I would feel in their presence. I think you can at times intuitively feel whether a person is natural or not. So I kind of lean more towards ... people who had that feeling because I really felt they had some kind of divine wisdom.
"It's like from people like Greg Osby, I love just watching him," Harland says. "I love Terrence BlanchardI think he's one of the most sensitive cats. I would see him after shows and he'd excuse himself backstage and be in tears. I'd just be like, 'Goddamn,' you know? I can really, really appreciate that kind of shit. And then I've been around other people who love to analyzelike Joshua Redman, he has it mapped out, he has it shaped. It's all these different methods I'm learning about.
"Then there's all these people I haven't had a chance to work with," he adds. "And like Pat MethenyI love Pat Metheny but the stories I hear scare the shit out of me. But people who have worked with Pat Metheny have this divine thing to say about how everything works out. There must be something."
Harland recalls a story he'd heard about saxophonist Stan Getz, who would turn to players on the stand a yell at them to get more emotional performances.
"I think it does create a certain emotion," he says. "Miles [Davis] was like thathe just looked like he was not enjoying that shit. I look at it as just being a trumpet player, because trumpet players are just meanI think it's because their instrument is so unforgiving. It amazes me the people that can withstand it; it's a great journey to be aroundthey (trumpet players) have great stage presences but at the same, if you need any gratification about what you're doing on stage, that's not going to happen. Piano players will give it up, but not trumpet players."
Harland listens to drummers also, but not always to catch particular patterns they may use.
"I like everybody for different reasons," he says. "I like Brian Blade because I feel like he represents, not so much the technical side of the drums, but more of the innocence of the drums. You know, he has such an innocent spirit and whereas, he lets you know it's OK to do it this way. Like sometimes most drummers have this thing about you have to have such complexity with the instrument just to show your technique basically, 'I got tremendous technique, so check me out.' Where Blade doesn't get into the technique thing at all, it's more like 'this is what I do' and 'this is what I'm gonna do' and it's great.
"And then I like Jack DeJohnette for the same reason, it's just soI mean Jack will actually go for the technical stuff, it's just that his technique is just not so typical," Harland explains. "He has his own technique and style to play the drums. I love watching how he wields certain things off the drums. So he brings a whole other energy that he's really feeling the drums like an acoustic instrument.
"But then I love the technical players as well," Harland continues. "I love guys like Chris Dave, who just has phenomenal technique, and Dennis Chambers. These are Mostly fusion technical-kind of drummers that everybody knows. But keeping it in drum history, it would be like the difference between Tony Williams and Elvin JonesI mean, sometimes you listen to Elvin and you're like trying to figure what is he playing. But it really feels goodthe pulse is there; everything you expect from the drums are there. But, you know, he doesn't provide a lot of clarity between the beats. There's all this independence; there's more of like this rumbling ball that's rolling at you. And Tony Williams is like a ninja, he's so precise. He's freely making his markings, he's just such an accurate drummer and I think that's why he's such an influential drummer on almost every drummer."