Coincidentally, over the next few days, several D.C. clubs are presenting three pianists whose combined backgrounds span a large part of the history of jazz.

Tommy Flanagan opened last night at the One Step Down. Hilton Ruiz appears tonight at d.c. space. Earl Hines will be in residence at Blues Alley from Tuesday through Sunday.

Flanagan, from Detroit, a hotbed of jazz activity from the 1940s on, worked with Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis, as accompanist for Ella Fitzgerald, and even subbed for the legendary Bud Powell at Birdland.

He has a total fluency in the vocabulary of bebop and is a brilliant soloist whose impeccable taste and driving swing put him in the front line of contemporary interpreters of the art form.

Last night a first set of standards including "Stella By Starlight" and "these Foolish Things," along with bop compositions such as Tadd Domeron's Good Bait," were vehicles for Flanagan's melodic inventiveness, subtle wit and understanding of form.

An uncanny rapport exists between Flanagan and his bassist, Red Mitchell.

The latter provided buoyant support and was constantly involved in exchange with the pianist.

The Tommy Flanagan Duo will appear again at the One Step Down tomorrow.