Keith Pray Quartet / Bobby Previte @ Alias Coffee, 05/19/2023


Like musicians of all genres, jazz musicians have difficulty finding a listening room in the 518, which allows them to play their genre-bending compositions, arrangements, and improvisations. Alias Coffee, with its downtown vibe, is becoming that room as much as No Fun is for fans of indy/pun/alternative music.

Keith Pray is no stranger to the 518 jazz world. He was probably best known for leading one of the area’s contemporary jazz bands but will frequently lead smaller bands and also leads an organ trio. He is also a composer and has worked in many styles of jazz. 

Photo by Rudy Lu

His explorations have included work with drummer/composer Bobby Previte, who is well-known in the jazz world for bringing together disparate traditions and blending them. Although originally from Western NY, Bobby was a major player in the “Downtown” loft scene in the 80s.He more recently settled in the Hudson Valley and regularly played at the now-closed Club Helsinki and now regularly plays at Catskill’s Avalon Lounge. Keith has regularly collaborated with Bobby in recent years.

The performances/music varied from pieces composed years ago, those just recorded in the studio, and to those just recently composed and being heard by all for the first time. The moods of these recordings ranged from the spiritual to the contemplative to the more celebratory and rhythmic. Sometimes the rhythms and moods would change abruptly. The band was certainly up to the challenge. 

Keith Pray displayed his mastery of the alto through his playing and controlled the sound of the sax through the use of electronic reverb as well as traditional methods.

Bobby Previte’s use of his drum kit as well as various hand percussion, not only kept the beat, but added interesting accents and flourishes that make for an interesting listen. No matter what tempo, he was always swinging!

Photo by Rudy Lu

John Esposito, a veteran of the Hudson Valley as well as the 518 jazz scene, added interesting solos as well as comping as needed.

Otto Gardner completed the sound of the quartet. The bass was always there, clear and distinct, keeping the tempo of the performances and moving the music along.

The opener was “Inyo,” a heavily Coltrane-influenced spiritual peace.

The next tune, “The Runaround,” was more melodic. John Esposito played the pretty melody and the tune featured a melodic solo by Otto Gardner. Clear influences of Cannonball Adderly and Eddie Harris were heard.

Photo by Rudy Lu

“Autumn’s Arrival” was composed just several weeks ago and was a happy tune that turned from a samba to a shuffle.

The set closer was “Vamp for Peace,” a meditative piece that appeared on Keith’s Confluence CD 11 years ago.

The 2nd set opened with “First Month’s Blues”, which is not a blues—illustrating the difficulty of naming instrumental compositions. 

There was one cover performed, “Light at the Edge Of The World”, from a film soundtrack by Piero Piconne.

“South Sphere” had a clear Latin feel to it.

The Closer was another recent composition, ”The In-Between”; the title certainly spoke for itself—lots of jagged rhythms and notes.

I would be remiss not to mention the impeccable sound engineered by John Chiara. Not only was the music great, but the sound was also clear and distinct. Something many of us take for granted and actually is a lot of work.

The next concert at Alias is not to be missed. Saxophonists Joe Lovano and Ralph Lalama will be performing on June 13th @ 730 PM. Both have played in the 518 before, but it is a rare treat to have them perform together in this intimate space for 80.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble will be starting a summer residency at The Cock and Bull Restaurant, playing on the last Tuesday of the month through September.

I hope to see a few new faces at these events.

  • Keith Pray – Alto Sax
  • Bobby Previte – Drums, percussion
  • John Esposito – Keyboards
  • Otto Gardner – Bass

First Set

  • Inyo
  • The Runaround
  • The Juniper Tree
  • Hope and Lament
  • Autumn’s Arrival
  • Emerging
  • Vamp for Peace

Second Set

  • First Month’s Blues
  • Three Layers
  • Anticipation
  • Light At the Edge of the World-(Piero Piconne)
  • South Sphere
  • The In Between
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