The clarinet connection in jazz goes back to the music's earliest years in New Orleans, where the French woodwind tradition found voice in such highly skilled Creole players as Lorenzo Tio Jr. and Sidney Bechet. Another New Orleans Creole, pianist "Jelly Roll" Morton (a Washington resident in the late 1930s), recorded in trio format with the instrument and used trios of clarinets in his band arrangements.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," goes the French proverb, so no one should be surprised that Washington's own Clarinet Connection, a duo with rhythm section, was founded in Paris in the late 1970s by native Frenchman Michael Mardiguian. His founding partner was Jacques Caroff, a disciple of Albert Nicholas, a New Orleans Creole and pupil of Tio.

Four or five different clarinetists paired up with Mardiguian during the five years he lived here, and when his work called the leader back to France a few months ago, two of them -- Ron Hockett and John Jenkins -- were determined to continue the tradition. With Rick Rowe on guitar, Frank Borror, bass, and Sonny McGown at the drums, Clarinet Connection will perform at a Smithsonian Resident Associates concert today at 11 a.m. in Carmichael Auditorium, Museum of American History.