Anyone familiar at all with the jazz world of today will know the great drumming of Eric Harland. I met Eric when he was eighteen years old and came to audition at the Manhattan School of Music, he was instantly the best drummer at the school, he already had a solid grasp of the language and that incredible joy in his playing that people know today. What he lacked at that age was a certain finesse in dynamics, touch and timbre, but by the time we recorded Hearsay seven years later he had already been touring with people such as Terrence Blanchard, Greg Osby, Charles Lloyd and McCoy Tyner, and matured immensely. Today he’s undeniably a master musician (don’t take my word for it, read this recent article from the Boston Globe).
Tabula Rasa was an exploration of unusual timbral possibilities (I was unfamiliar with the great Arvo Pärt composition of the same name at the time), particularly the bending capabilities of bass and trombone, inspired by the music of people like Henry Threadgill, Julius Hemphill, Booker Little and Grachan Moncur III. After the melody we tried playing a free-form, texturally based, collective solo, but we hadn’t played that kind of thing enough together it just wasn’t gelling. I asked Eric if he would take a solo on it, which of course no drummer will ever turn down, and I was astounded by his solo. Without the lure of melody and the underpinning of harmony, drum solos can often feel rambling and onanistic; this one is sings! It unravels beautifully and curiously, continuously guiding us through it’s story. I know I may be biased, but this is one of my favorite drum solos ever.