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The Zen of Eric Harland

The master drummer relates his lifelong musical and spiritual journeys

Eric Harland at NYC's Blue Note in April 2014
Eric Harland's Voyager ay NYC's Highline Ballroom, Sept. 2014
Dave Holland's PRISM, Detroit Jazz Festival August 2014. l. to r.: Craig Taborn, Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Eric Harland

The first album that Eric Harland ever bought with his own money was A Love Supreme. Now 38, the drummer was in middle school and had only recently been introduced to jazz through his playing in the school band when he scraped his change together to purchase Coltrane’s masterpiece. He was vaguely familiar with the sax legend’s late-’50s work with Miles Davis, but it was the album’s title, not its personnel, that captured his imagination. A Love Supreme: Was this a collection of tender romantic ballads or a Zen-inspired expression of spiritual seeking?

As so many listeners have discovered before and since, “It was actually both,” Harland recalls. In a sense, that revelation set the template for Vipassana (GSI/Eland), Harland’s second release at the helm of his group Voyager and his first studio recording as a leader. Named for an ancient Indian meditation technique that translates as “insight into the true nature of reality,” the CD serves as an act of personal meditation for Harland, but one that takes its audience on an active journey.

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