Pianist John Colianni's last Blues Alley performance was in 1978, when, at the tender age of 16, he approached Clark Terry and asked to play "Satin Doll" with the band. At 19 Colianni sneaked backstage to meet Lionel Hampton and wound up playing in his band for the next three years. "It took a lot of nerve," Colianni says. But it's a nerve that 24-year-old jazz pianists are apparently made of.

If it were not for his father's jazz record collection Colianni might have given up the piano altogether. "I was taking your usual neighborhood piano lessons and playing badly," he remembers. But the jazz he heard inspired him to approach the piano seriously.

Since his days with Hampton's band, in which he participated on its live album "Made in Japan," Colianni has recorded a debut solo album on the Concord label and hopes to finish a second soon.

Colianni and his own band will perform at Blues Alley on Wednesday. This time he didn't have to cajole anybody into letting him play. Their repertoire will be a combination of standards like "Jitterbug Waltz" and "Long Ago and Far Away" and original tunes like his stride piano piece "Steel Pier Stomp."

The performance is a homecoming for Colianni, who studied piano with Les Karr in Chevy Chase, and for bass player Bob Field and drummer Chuck Redd. "We jammed together in Rockville at Frankie Condon's," he says.

For show information, call 337-4141.