There are a few things Greg Harrison wants the public to know about his jazz band and their concert Saturday night on Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.
"We don't really put on a show, but we do good music," he said. "I don't get on a microphone; I don't effervesce; I don't tell jokes and drag out time. When we get out onstage, we start with a strong number. Then I say what we just played, what we're going to play, and we get right to it."
Getting right to the heart of the matter happened by way of a revelation back in 1970. At that time, Harrison was working as an environmental engineer at NASA. He had long before played the clarinet in high school.
One day, while in Las Vegas, he caught a Pete Fountain performance. Harrison was a great admirer of this master of clarinet performance.
|The Greg Harrison Jazz Band|
|Where: Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW|
|When: 6 p.m. Saturday|
|Info: Free; 800-444-1324; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org|
"I came home and told my wife that I was a changed man," Harrison recalled.
He began studies in classical clarinet with the famed Sidney Forrest of Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore where, for the next 17 years, he studied the instrument and its sound production. Ten years into his studies, he formed the Greg Harrison Jazz Band.
"I realized no one was going to hire me. I'm a special niche guy, and all I wanted to do was play Benny Goodman and Pete Fountain," he said. "And so I had to start my own band, or I'd never get hired to play in the real world."
Today, as he has for the past 30-plus years, Harrison and his band perform standard jazz tunes in a swing jazz format based on the small bands of the '30s, '40s and '50s. Their sound graces venues all over the District.
Harrison is joined on the Millennium Stage by band members Jay Miles on bass, Rick Rowe on guitar and Alan Dale on drums. Audiences will enjoy a packed program of recognizable tunes that includes the music of Fats Waller, along with gems from the Great American Songbook. The band plays sans gimmicks, and Harrison notes, "When I think of something, it comes out in the clarinet."
His is a model Le Blanc instrument given to him by none other than his idol, Pete Fountain.