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Interviews

Eric Harland: Searching the Patterns in Life

By Published: January 5, 2010
"That's another creative tool that I'm sure tons of people use—they don't talk about it much, but they have to because it's so great, why wouldn't anyone?," says Harland . "It's like you write a bunch of dots on the wall, then what you do is bring out the ruler and start connecting them so then people tend to look at them and go 'Wow, you really had a different approach on the placement.'



"I mean, you know, sometime they see like a certain kind of brilliance in it because it's thinking outside the box, but you have the organic and the structure," he continues. "I think that's what truly brings genius—like a person that has both nature and science because the two are pretty much the same. But I guess, of course, how we are as humans, we've created the distinction between the two. You've got people that lean towards the spiritual side or to the a more analytical, scientific side. And so when you can get both, have the similar kind of presence within the moment, that's when you achieve this ultimate kind of creation.

"I think if you think about everybody you love, they pretty much possess to a certain degree, both," explains Harland. "Like you won't hear anyone dis' Trane [John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
] and I think that's because back then, he was so overwhelming. And it wasn't because he lacked anything, he was just overwhelming, just too heavy. But he had both—he could analyze every chord, he could play every scale—at the same time, he just be completely free and organic. And be very spiritual."

Harland also tries to maintain the same free-spirited approach to his ensemble, which includes pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Julian Lage
Julian Lage
Julian Lage

guitar
and bassist Harish Raghavan. The group has live recordings made in France in 2008 Harland hopes to see released in 2010, but he's also been trying his new compositional ideas with the group.

"I just want to give [the music] more space, to go into the studio and just lay down whatever I feel at the moment and just know it comes from whatever I feel myself," he says. "I'm definitely doing that with my band now—I don't actually write full tunes. I'm at the point now where I've always felt like everyone would get to the end of the tune and that's when they felt like they're ready to play the tune.

"The part of music I loved the most was always about the end of the tune because all of a sudden everyone's being creative because before then, everyone's reading the charts and the changes, trying to do this, and at the end of the tune, it's like, 'Oof! Made it ... Thank you! Thank you. I get the bronze medal,'" Harland explains. "Then, it's just like all of a sudden they'd be on this jam, they'd be on this subtle vamp of the tune, and I'm saying, 'yeah, that's the shit.'

"So I've just been writing these things to get them going," Harland continues. "That what it is performing—you may have some shit you want to say, so I'm writing so everyone gets a chance to express themselves."

And he's working on a project he's calling "Messiah Complex"—the name of the project stems from Harland's view everyone has a desire to be recognized in some way, to be a "messiah" for another person or other people.

"Everyone has this thing burning inside us—it might not be for the world, it might be for the people around you, but you want to do something special," explains Harland. "It might sometimes get misconstrued but we have this purpose. I tried to pick nine different people that I felt like had nine different lives—I mean me, Taylor, Julian, Harish, and then I think about my wife and her friends.

"I really feel that's going to be interesting because I'm actually going to get to work with my wife and friends of hers because my wife is into musical theater," Harland says. "I want to tie musical theater to jazz because there are some really great songs in the theater. There are a few songs in that genre I want to use in jazz."

Eric Harland / Kurt RosenwinkelHarland doesn't cite many influences but says he tries to listen to everyone—or at least, all who have a sincere message to communicate.

"I have a hard time internalizing information from other people—I think that comes from a long way of just having a lot of dictation in my life from religion," says Harland. "When people start coming to me with information—I guess it all depends on tone. 'This is what you need to check out'—I'm kind of rebellious in the beginning, definitely, but eventually I'll go check it out because I believe that everyone has [something to say] ... Charles Lloyd's wife is making this great documentary on him, and they did this great interview, where he said, 'He has some knowledge, and she has some knowledge ...' and it just made so much sense. It just made so much sense—everyone has some knowledge. So I take that point.


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