Since the early years of jazz there have been drummers who prided themselves on their versatility, and 29-year-old Washington-based Steve Williams is carrying on that tradition.

His work, here and abroad, with singer Joe Williams, pianist Monty Alexander, pianist-vocalist Shirley Horn, vibraphonist Milt Jackson and pianist Horace Tapscott has carried him across the spectrum of jazz from the swing era to be-bop to contemporary avant garde. He has played in fusion bands, recently took part in a Sunday series at the Smithsonian on jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet and admits to having "played so much funk music it's ridiculous."

Williams will take his quintet into d.c. space Thursday as part of the sixth annual D.C. Loft Jazz Festival, which commences Wednesday. Marshall Keyes will be on alto saxophone, Tommy Williams on trumpet, Pepe Gonzalez on bass and Paul Bollenback on guitar.

"It comes in spurts," says Williams of the work of the jazz player, "and it gets to be a little nerve-racking. Sometimes you have to just work on it, make phone calls all day long. Anybody in this town who free-lances knows there's no such thing as a steady gig in the jazz business."