All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

12

Eric Harland's Voyager at The Highline Ballroom

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Eric Harland's Voyager
Highline Ballroom
Vipassana CD Release
New York, NY
September 2, 2014

The CD release show for Vipassana (GSI Records, 2014)—the sophomore album from drummer Eric Harland's Voyager—didn't play out like a typical club set or concert; it was more like a spiritual journey through songs, segues, and seas of rhythm. Harland and his expandable/contractible outfit delivered a ceaseless flow of music for an hour and forty-five minutes. Mantras were intoned, voice was given up to the heavens, stuttered beats morphed into steady grooves, and a sense of atmospheric sound gave way to cycles of musical energy. It was an evening to remember, as concrete numbers were separated by engrossing transitional episodes, often shining a light on a single player or focusing in on a loose and liquid pas de deux.

The show began by mirroring the album, opening on the meditative "Relax" and delivering more bite with "Raghavan." The former found Harland blending voice with vocalist Chris Turner and the latter gave pause to admire the well-matched sound(s) of saxophonist Walter Smith III and the two-guitar line-up of Julian Lage and Nir Felder. Both guitarists brought intensity to the music throughout the night, but each had their own role. By and large, Lage was on a semi-playful streak; Felder, on the other hand, was trapped deep in a dream, ever-focused on potent tone painting.

While Harland, Lage, Felder, and Smith received the lion's share of attention when the band pulled out all the stops, they wouldn't have had the freedom to do so without the supportive sonic layering of keyboardist Taylor Eigsti and the bedrock bass work of Harish Raghavan. Both men proved to be fairly selfless throughout, but the music would've suffered were it not for their indispensable contributions. A pair of guests—bassist Mark Kelley of The Roots and Danny Louis Thomas, the winner of a Harland-sponsored rap contest—also added to the complex aural tapestry that Harland sought to weave throughout the evening.

Harland's polyrhythmic brilliance, flirtations with metric modulation, innovative beat sculpting, Herculean chops, and general musicality all came together beautifully in this performance. He expertly piloted powerful and moving numbers ("Singularis"), slackened and tightened grooves within a given framework, kept things simple and supportive during Turner's balladic-cum-rocking star turn ("Normal"), and followed up an odd-metered rewrite of a jazz classic ("Maiden Voyage") with a mind-blowing, drummer-on-steroids solo break that married snare and double bass. Throughout this journey, Harland proved that power and finesse aren't mutually exclusive, highlighting the fact that the meditative and the muscular can successfully coexist.

Photo Credit: Dan Bilawsky

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center Live Reviews
Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 18, 2018
Read Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre Live Reviews
Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Hitch On 2017 Live Reviews
Hitch On 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: February 17, 2018
Read WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018 Live Reviews
WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 16, 2018
Read Chick Corea/Steve Gadd Band At Blues Alley Live Reviews
Chick Corea/Steve Gadd Band At Blues Alley
by David Hadley Ray
Published: February 14, 2018
Read Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Sculler's Jazz Club Live Reviews
Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Sculler's Jazz...
by Nat Seelen
Published: February 13, 2018
Read "Mike Zito at the Iridium" Live Reviews Mike Zito at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 8, 2017
Read "The NJE at Indo, Whitechapel" Live Reviews The NJE at Indo, Whitechapel
by Gareth Thompson
Published: February 5, 2018
Read "Miles From India at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Thundercat at the Bluebird Theater" Live Reviews Thundercat at the Bluebird Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 1, 2017