From the December 2016 issue of DRUM! | By Andy Ziker
Eric Harland interacts sensitively to the musicians around him; coaxes a vast array of sounds, articulations, and dynamics out of the kit; swings like every note is his last; and plays with uncanny accuracy and taste, placing him in demand for both stage and studio. Aziza, a self-titled album featuring an all-star line-up of Dave Holland (bass), Chris Potter (sax), and Lionel Loueke (guitar), showcases Harland’s ability to stretch out over a variety of song structures, feels, and time signatures.
Harland’s 17/8 (grouped in 4 + 4 + 4 + 5 eighth-notes over a syncopated bass/guitar riff) is incredibly smooth and funky. Check out the dry pop of the snare backbeat and just the right touch of ghosted notes and cymbal stack sounds, with a sprinkling of rimshots in unexpected locations. Swung sixteenth-notes are used as a subtle device to create a continuous flow, but listen to how Harland brings the triplets into focus with a stuttering half-time shuffle at the beginning of the third line.
“Walkin’ The Walk”
This passage begins as Potter takes his turn soloing over the form. Floating effortlessly over Holland’s infectious 5/4 (which could also be considered 10/4) bass line, Harland plays mostly straight eighths orchestrated among ride, snare, bass drum, and hi-hat. Take heed of carefully placed accents creating a three-dimensional effect, an over-the-bar closed hi-hat lick between measures two/three and five/six, off-beat high toms across measures four and five, polyrhythmic open hi-hat from measures seven to eight, and short triplet bursts at the ends of measures six and eight.
Taken from the beginning of Loueke’s guitar solo, Harland plays a beautiful jazz waltz — written here in 3/4 for clarity, though it has more of a 6/4 vibe based on Holland’s Afro-Cuban-tinged bass line. Harland’s hi-hat foot oscillates between consecutive quarters and more of a meandering approach. He creates momentum by playing the ride sparingly at first and increasing the rhythmic density, and excitement, by nailing down some Roy Haynes-like snare accents.