Eric Harland: Searching the Patterns in Life
Harland says that for him, learning to communicate with the musicians he's on stage with is more crucial than demonstrating his considerable prowess with the sticks.
"You're not only learning the music, you're learning how to communicate with the music," explains Harland. "Like when Dave [Holland] first actually played with the sextet that was like one of the scariest things for me because I was just like, 'Dave, I've never played with you.' We did like one record with Terrence, a long time ago, I remember him talking about us getting together but I was like ... I didn't know how he was going to respond to how I really play, you know, because I definitely take on the persona of trying to give people what they're used to in the beginning and then try to fit organically what I truly am because I take it on as a learning experience for myself to try to adapt to a certain style without losing my own identity.
"It's like trying to add more to my plate," he adds. "And then when I feel like I've gained that confidence, then I can take more liberties, which what I pretty much always want to do from 'jump.' Sometimes, if you take many liberties from the beginning, it never allows people to settle, like people always feel kind of uncomfortable playing with you, and I never want people to feel like I'm always out to always play for myself. So I always take a pretty mild approach in the beginning still trying to find something unique.
"But it's always a challenge every time because everyone feels the beat different, everyone's time is different, everyone's concepts are differentit's a lot to think about," he concludes. "But at the same time, it's always a beautiful experience because it's going to be something at the end of the day."
From his vantage point behind so many jazz leaders, Harland has observed how fame can be a blessing to some while others waste it.
"I like the way Branford Marsalis said it," Harland describes, "when he told me when you're chosen to be the item of success, it doesn't matter what you do'they' want you to be out there and you're going to be out there. How great you become depends on yourselfmany people are great but they still sound like shit.
"But there are ones that really took their greatness seriously; they were like, 'Wow, I have this great opportunity to be in front of people' and maybe they just wanted to feel like they deserve their greatness," Harland adds. "Some people just feel like they're great; they don't know shit; they just feel like they're great 'I'm great, notice my greatness ... thank you.' And that's goodthey have a certain kind of confidence in their individualism, which is something a lot of people don't have. There are some people who are complete geniuses and they get noticed for their greatness."
"But if you want to know some shit, that's a personal journey," Harland said.
Joel Weiskopf/John Patitucci, Devoted to You (Criss Cross, 2009)
Dave Holland Sextet, Pass It On (Emarcy/PGD, 2008)
Charles Lloyd Quartet, Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2008)
Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch, 2007)
SFJAZZ Collective, SFJAZZ Collective (Nonesuch, 2005)
Charles Lloyd, Jumping the Creek (ECM, 2005)
Kenny Garrett, Standard of Language (Warner Bros., 2003)
McCoy Tyner, Land of Giants (Telarc, 2003)
Terence Blanchard, Let's Get Lost: The Music of Jimmy McHugh (Sony Classical, 2001)
Aaron Goldberg, Unfolding (J Curve, 2001)
Page 1: Courtesy of Eric Harland
Page 2: Courtesy of Healdsburg Jazz Festival
Page 3: Courtesy of Jazz Festival Goettingen
Page 4: Hilde Schmidt
Page 5: Cees Van De Ven
Featured Story: Jos J. Knaepen
Shop for jazz: