Entertaining jazz can sometimes crop up in unexpected places. Saturday night, for example, anyone driving down Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica might easily have passed the Round Table restaurant without realizing that the room was hosting some attractive music from the Pat Tuzzolino Quartet.
Tuzzolino, who doubles on guitar and piano, was concentrating on guitar and vocals for the evening, with the piano chair filled by Marty Harris. Singing tunes such as "Just the Way You Look Tonight" and ripping off fleet lines on up-tempo numbers (including a particularly rapid romp through "There Is No Greater Love"), Tuzzolino revealed an appealing lyrical approach supported by solid musicality.
The real thrill of the set, however, was the presence of a first-rate rhythm team: drummer Roy McCurdy and bassist John B. Williams. Each has strong musical credentials and each has worked in major jazz settings. And it was fascinating to hear the sense of musical purpose they brought to every note, even during the moments when the crowd at the bar seemed more involved with conversation than with the music.
Santa Monica and the far Westside are pretty much jazz wastelands these days, with only a few rooms (especially around the Third Street Promenade) giving the music a showcase. At 24th Street and Wilshire, the Round Table is well-positioned to draw some of the area's deprived fans. But to do so, the restaurant needs to move the bandstand to a more prominent position, do a better job of promotion and, above all, let the jazz listeners who come to the room know that the music is the focus of the evening, not the background.
* Pat Tuzzolino Quartet, Round Table, 2460 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m. No cover charge. (310) 828-2217.