It is strange to think that jazz drummer Eric Harland is only 36. It almost seems as if he has been an entrenched titan on his instrument for a couple of decades. What’s certainly true is that he is the representative jazz drummer of the generation that came after the successive jazz drum generations of Jack DeJohnette and Jeff “Tain” Watts.
The news couldn’t be better in Harland’s case. Though he’s played with Wynton Marsalis, among countless others, he is, without question, the best drummer Charles Lloyd has played with since DeJohnette, almost in another lifetime.
“Vipassana” is a disc cousin to the last few Lloyd discs. It means the Buddhist meditation of seeing things as they really are. “No more was or will be,” as the disc’s publicity describes it, “only an infinite ‘this is.’ ” Which makes it as a disc title either a presumptuous one for a drummer or a modest one describing the bliss of his group playing together.
So extremely varied and eclectic – as well as melodic – is this disc that it sounds like something the much-underrated British saxophonist Courtney Pine released in the days when he was thought of as Branford Marsalis’ transatlantic twin. This is a drummer’s disc in that his contribution to the music is continuously inventive and artful.
As a jazz group, Harland’s Voyager is an extremely fine one for this generation – saxophonist Walter Scott, pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarists Julian Lage and Nils Felder, singer Chris Turner and bassist Hamish Raphavan.
Originals comprise most of it (“Normal” is a sort of Bobby McFerrin folk-rock search to define that most familiar word). But when it gets around to Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” it’s a fresh version of one of post-bop’s most beautiful tunes.
A beautiful disc.
– Jeff Simon