The story of jazz drummer extraordinaire Eric Du'sean Harland, a first-call player of the decade from 2000 onward, is one filled with courage, persistence, and fortitude.
Born in Houston, Texas, in 1978, he is the nephew of Houston vocalist Leo Polk. An extremely overweight teenager, he was a target of cruel children, mean-spirited teachers, and at times, family members. His religious mother, believing she had seen a vision when he was born, was convinced that Eric was the messiah-in-waiting. She took him to voodoo priests and witch doctors to confirm her expectations. Harland found acceptance in music, learning orchestra percussion, and at age 14 idolizing Elvin Jones
. At home, he would lock himself in his room, playing along with John Coltrane
's A Love Supreme and recordings by Jeff Watts
, Jack DeJohnette
, Dave Weckl
, and Steve Gadd
. He began his professional career in 1993 playing locally, and finished high school at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Harland won first chair in 1992-1993 with the regional and state jazz band. He met Wynton Marsalis
at a school workshop, and the trumpeter encouraged the young drummer to continue his jazz studies in New York City.