'The Edenfred Files': Darryl Harper's Blues-Infused Jazz | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

'The Edenfred Files': Darryl Harper's Blues-Infused Jazz

In jazz, the clarinet went into eclipse for awhile, drowned out by louder trumpets and saxes. The instrument has long since made a comeback, and the modern clarinet thrives in settings where it doesn't have to shout to be heard.

Take "Spindleshanks," a little out-of-sync boogie-woogie for Darryl Harper's clarinet and Kevin Harris' piano. It's from Harper's The Edenfred Files. In his long-running Onus Trio, the spare unit Darryl Harper features on most of his new album, he can sing softly as an owl in the night.

Harper and his simpatico colleagues cherish that great renewable resource, the blues, which is itself rooted in 19th-century field hollers: music of the cleared woodlands. Harper's woody clarinet timbre makes the connection. The trio plays Julius Hemphill's "Kansas City Line," a modernized blues that's 10 bars long instead of the usual 12; it seems to end in midair. When they play the melody twice, the beginning of the second time through sounds like the real ending. The musicians add to the playful ambiguities by messing with the tempo here and there.

Harper likes his blues with a twist, with some way of tweaking its form or rhythm or feel. The blues isn't all he plays, but on The Edenfred Files it's rarely far away. In bassist Matthew Parrish's "Sirens Calling," a spiky melody and rhythm have the easy flow of an intricate folk dance. Drummer Butch Reed makes it roll.

The Edenfred Files is modest in a good way: a short program for two small combinations, ending with a solo piano Coltrane ballad that's somehow a fitting close to a clarinet recital. It's a musical chapbook or novella, and the scale suits Darryl Harper's pointedly focused music. Sometimes, a small helping hits the spot better than a jumbo platter.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Former Basketball Player Scores As A Filmmaker

While Deon Taylor was playing professional basketball in Germany, he had an epiphany: he wanted to make movies. The self-taught director's latest film, Supremacy, was released this Friday.
NPR

Surströmming Revisited: Eating Sweden's Famously Stinky Fish

Sweden has the distinction of producing surströmming, one of the foulest-smelling foods in the world. More than a decade ago, NPR's Ari Shapiro tried eating it and failed. It's time for a rematch.
NPR

What Romney's Retreat Means For GOP Hopefuls

NPR's Scott Simon speaks with senior Washington editor Ron Elving about the narrowing Republican presidential field for 2016 and what we've seen so far in the first month of the new Congress.
NPR

The Infinite Whiteness Of Public Radio Voices

The hashtag #publicradiovoices, about the "whiteness" of public radio, trended on Twitter this week. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team about the conversation.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.