Dakota Concert Preview: Eric Harland and Rude Unkal

JamesOnJazzsquarePrepare to ride the wave. Tomorrow night, Monday August 17, for one-night only, drummer and composer Eric Harland brings his band Rude Unkal to the Dakota for a rare engagement, an evening billed as “purified Garage Jazz.”

Garage Jazz? What’s that?

It’s been described as a fusion of jam/surf music. I’m familiar with Jam Jazz music, but not so much surf. Jam Jazz consists of jazz, blues, electronic and rock music. A quick search for surf music led me to found out that it was popular with the surf culture in the ’60s, experienced a surge in the ’90s, and apparently the sounds can get you amped to catch the waves.

Eric Harland
Eric Harland

This Minneapolis gig is one of just a handful for the group featuring Keita Ogawa on percussion, James Francies on keyboard, Carlos Homs on keyboard, Austin White on bass guitar, Dan Rovin on sax and T.J. Robinson on trombone vocals. Recently, they’ve performed in cities such as Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Young drummers/bandleaders such as 36-year-old Harland rarely EVER have the opportunity to play at the Dakota, so this is a big, big deal. And the newly assembled band is full of young players, which makes this gig even more special. On Sunday, Harland participated in a drum workshop held at Drum Loft in Minneapolis.

It’s true he’s one of the top first-call drummers and the most impactful of his generation. If you’ve been lucky enough to witness Harland in action, you know why. His playing has multi-layers of rich textures and radiates an array of colors, not to mention a sound as diverse and powerful as a punch only Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Billy Higgins could deliver.

Name a popular mainstream trade publication, and chances are Harland has been acknowledged in its pages for his tremendous sound, work ethic and tireless commitment to his craft.

Hardcore music fans may know him best from his previous work with the greats, pianist McCoy Tyner and vocalist Betty Carter, or most recently for his work with the legendary saxophonist/flutist Charles Lloyd, who appeared as a guest on many Beach Boys recordings.

Eric Harland and Rude Unkal (from Facebook page)
Eric Harland and Rude Unkal (from Facebook)

Harland’s no stranger to the Twin Cities; he just graced us with his presence by performing at this year’s Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Harland also performs with Voyager, his own group, Jason Moran, Chris Potter, James Farm with Joshua Redman, Prism with Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Zakir Hussain, Overtone with Holland, and Lloyd’s New Quartet.

Knowing Harland’s talent, dynamic skills, and broad musical tastes, it’s safe to say this gig at the Dakota will be full of surprises.

Plus, my guess is that the Rude Unkal band is well-acquainted enough to have an immediate chemistry and young enough to bring a fresh perspective of Garage Jazz music to the Dakota stage. Let’s see.

For more information visit, www.ericharland.com and www.dakotacooks.com.


Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokesman-recorder.com. You can also find James on Twitter at @Robin_James1.