On a list of Washington-based jazz ensembles that deserve greater exposure, the John Previti Quartet would have to rank high. At Blues Alley on Monday night, the band moved through a collection of mostly pop and jazz standards with ease, invention and charm.
Previti, best known for his work with the late guitar great Danny Gatton, played a typically self-effacing role on acoustic bass, warmly underscoring the swing pulse sustained by drummer Big Joe Maher and fashioning a series of thoughtfully articulated solos that created lyrical interludes or arching bridges. While most of the melodies played by vibist and pianist John Cocuzzi and guitarist Rick Whitehead were familiar, the arrangements stood out with splashing colors, deft interplay and unexpected twists, including some neatly executed contrapuntal passages.
"Three Little Words," "On the Street Where You Live" and other tunes found Cocuzzi on vibes, showering bright melodic variations over the dominant chords set into swift motion by Whitehead. When it came time for Whitehead to take the lead, he infused his improvisations with everything from subtle harmonic extensions to bluesy exclamations. The group was briefly pared down to just three pieces -- vibes, guitar and bass -- a combination that proved particularly alluring on the ballads.
Like the band's new CD, "Swinging Lullabies for My Rosetta," the show also featured complementary vocals by Marianna Previti, the bassist's wife, and Maher, one of the best blues and jump singers in town. Among other things, Marianna Previti put a wonderfully sly and sensuous spin on "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me."
-- Mike Joyce