All Gerald Albright needs is a large saxophone in his hands to fan the flame of musical passion.

His hands make some mighty fine contemporary and straight-ahead jazz -- the brand his fans have come to love and can hear more of this weekend at Blues Alley.

"It's been a number of years since I've performed there and I'm so anxious to get back and rekindle memories of previous performances," he said. "The intimate venue is one thing I remember about it; the people are right there. You've got to be honest."

Not a problem for this native Californian, who cut his teeth on studio work with the likes of Anita Baker and the Temptations before joining the popular Jazz Explosion Tours, which teamed him up with contemporary jazz stars like Will Downing, Hugh Masekela and Chaka Khan, to name a few. He was also one of the 10 featured saxophonists who performed at President Clinton's inauguration and later at the Presidential Summit and several of Clinton's private functions.

Gerald Albright
» Where: Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
» When: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday
» Info: $42; 202-337-4141;

Albright and his saxophone are joined on stage by some of his favorite fellow artists. Chris Davis sits at the keyboards, with Mark Walker on bass, and Joel Tate at the drums.

"We call Chris Davis 'Big Dog' because he's 6-foot-five and about 300 pounds," Albright said, laughing. "He's the last one you'd thing about on keyboards -- he's more like a bouncer in a club, but he's one of the most fun players I ever [worked] with."

The four men are going to perform some of their old material that the fans know and love from past years. They'll pick and choose tunes from their newer albums as well, including their latest release, "24/7."

However, look for that element of surprise that is always part of a Gerald Albright performance.

"Sometimes when we hit the stage, we don't even know what's going to happen," he noted. "We just roll with the crowd and hopefully develop some type of oneness with them where real surprises will come to the surface. You just make the ride and see where it takes you."