"I bought a 1940 Steinway B last year," proudly informs Bill Harris, who six years ago began his search for that very model. A local dealer purchased the "flawless, mint-condition pre-World War II" instrument at auction in New York. "It had only been played a few times a year." Harris said he was able to meet the price ("under $20,000") through the generous loan of a friend. "I've been working like hell to pay for it."

The 30-year-old Harris, who came here from Long Island with his family in the mid-'60s and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, has been on the area piano bar and lounge circuit for seven years as a solo performer. Harris and his trio are currently performing Thursdays at Cafe Maxime in International Square, with Pepe Gonzalez on bass and Steve Williams on drums.

"It doesn't all have to come from me now," explains Harris of the advantage of a group format. "I have a lot more fun now, it's more of a game, we throw things back and forth." Asked how the instruments he uses on the job match up to his own dream piano, Harris insists that "nothing can compare -- I've played new nine-foot Steinways and I don't like them one iota as much as the piano I have in my living room. It's one in 10,000 -- if you can find one."