Synthesizers in the last five years have taken a big role in all types of music," says Gregg Karukas of the Gregg Karukas Group, which will appear at Blues Alley at 8:30 and 10:30 Monday night. And Karukas adds, "I have a keyboard and three synthesizers on a rack."

Karukas, now 29, says he got his first synthesizer at 16. The following year began a decade of playing the D.C. clubs, eventually inspiring the Bowie native to move to Los Angeles.

"L.A. is the music capital of the world. The work is so varied -- from playing a little bar mitzvah to working on a gold record in jazz, rock or R&B," says Karukas, who is often called into L.A. studios to program synthesizers and play keyboards for recording artists. In May he left a road tour with Melissa Manchester, and then brought his newly formed group to Ocean City and Baltimore.

The group includes drummer Joe Dougherty and bassist Jay Dulaney -- both native Washingtonians who relocated to Los Angeles. Also appearing is saxophonist Pete Barenbregge, a member of the Air Force's Airmen of Note.

Karukas says he's turning down studio work to do some recording on his own and to play with his group, though he wants to play with other musicians -- he singles out Al Jarreau and David Sanborn. Still, it's good to be back home for a while, says Karukas, adding, "This is the first time in three years I've come back to play."