Washington is beset by an energy shortage that has nothing to do with gas, oil or Middle Eastern sheiks -- the problem is that many local jazz musicians seem to be running on empty, artistically and emotionally. While this town has never been known for its musical innovations (with the exception of saxophonist Andrew White), the jazz currently being presented sounds as if it is being powered by peanut oil instead of ethyl.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at Blues Alley last night, when Air Apparent performed a set of foppish bop and lukewarm "cool jazz." The musicians were skilled and their ensemble work was tight and well rehearsed, but their songs plodded along with little sense of feeling or excitement.

The group ambled through the show with an ambivalent attitude which was reflected in the listless solos and dull rhythm. The leader of the group, violinst Armen Boyajian, seemed more interested in talking with his friends in the front rows (while his fellow musicians were playing) than in following the music. Bassist Clarence Seay and pianist Larry Scott attempted to revive the playing at times, but they were thwarted by Boyajian's solos, which simply coasted from one theme line to the next.

Air Apparent might have the potential to become a powerful musical ensemble, but at the moment they sound like a solar-powered jazz group on a cloudy day.