Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, March 31, 2000

Talk about a steady gig: Jazz pianist Louis Scherr may have the longest-running one in town. "On August first, it will be 21 years that I've played at the Four Seasons," says Scherr. "Where does the time go?" he asks with a big sigh. While he may pine for bygone days, he knows he has one of the sweetest gigs in town. All these years Scherr has played jazz standards and his own compositions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights (he also plays classical piano during the Friday afternoon teas) in the Garden Terrace lounge of one of the city's finest hotels.

"It's been a wonderful job," he says. "It's a very nice place, obviously, and you meet a lot of nice people. And I've never had any restrictions on what I play." In fact the Four Seasons recently asked Scherr to broaden his musical horizons even more, putting up the budget for a band to join him on Wednesdays. "Playing solo can get a little lonely," admits Scherr, "but if you've got some other jazz musicians playing with you, it's wonderful. You get to push ideas off each other, feed off each other's ideas. It's definitely more fun with a group."

Scherr says the audience appreciates the trios he brings in more, perhaps, than his solo work. "When I've got a duo or trio, people applaud after every song. It becomes more of a performance than ambient background music." So, for the past month, Scherr has been joined by such area notables as bassists Tommy Cecil, Keter Betts, David Jernigan, Leonardo Lucini and Tom Baldwin, and drummers Alejandro Lucini and Tony Martucci. It's a wonderful way to hear classic jazz, amid the palm fronds and azaleas, though the carpeting reminds you that it's still a hotel lounge. (Hotel management is promising a top-to-bottom renovation of the Garden Terrace in June, so the carpet will go. Thankfully, the plants will stay).

Scherr maintains an excellent Web site,, which is as complete a listing of what's going on in the Washington jazz world as you can find anywhere. The site is now conducting a jazz competition, with visitors registering to vote for their favorite performances. There are currently sound files from eight performers up for consideration, and Scherr says more will be added as he solicits entries from area musicians. The winner of the contest (voting ends June 1) gets free studio time to record, mix and master a full CD. The disc will then be manufactured by locally based Oasis, and the band will be presented with 300 free copies. Log on, check it out, maybe even vote. (And be sure to check the "Nightlife" page of for a short film of me chatting with Scherr at his piano.)