The clarinet has been out of fashion for so long that a new language almost divorced from its roots has come into being for the instrument's role in contemporary jazz. An area player who will have none of that is Gregg Harrison, currently at the 219 Restaurant in Alexandria on Wednesdays and Fridays as part of a trio.
Harrison's tone and attack derive from the pre-bebop era and his repertoire from the great songwriters of yesteryear. Last night the melodies he essayed were as familiar as their titles, yet each number had a freshness that came out of the clarinetist's insight into the tune's character.
Playing his instrument with technique and breath control worthy of the conservatory and without amplification, Harrison worked so closely with pianist Tom Niemann and bassist Ken Anoe that the three were an integrated unit rather than a soloist with rhythm support.
Harrison's approach to a number usually entailed a straightforward stating of the theme followed by remodeling with melodic twists. He slipped in and out of the several registers effortlessly.
Niemann was Earl Hinesian in his trumpet note lines and rugged swing, and his solos shifted in and out of tempo with ease. Anoe's bass was in constant, although subtle, conversation with the other two instruments.