by Ian Mann
April 19, 2017
An impressive, if long awaited, début statement from Gavita. The musicianship is excellent throughout.
(Froggy Records – Frog001)
The Norwich born, London based trumpeter Freddie Gavita is in his early thirties but has been an almost constant presence on the UK jazz scene for a number of years as an in demand sideman for both large ensembles and small groups.
A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music Gavita has been a member of that institution’s big band as well as playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, BBC Big Band, John Dankworth Orchestra , Frank Griffith Big Band, Troykestra and Stan Sulzmann’s Neon Orchestra. In conjunction with bassist Calum Gourlay he once co-led the Gourlay/Gavita Big Band.
Gavita’s small group work has included recordings and live performances with bassists Cae Marle Garcia and Yuri Galkin, saxophonists Trish Clowes and Iain Ballamy, pianist Alex Webb, guitarist Dan Messore and fellow trumpeter Reuben Fowler. He has guested with the bands Wild Card and Empirical and has performed with a host of visiting American musicians and vocalists including drummer Peter Erskine, vibraphonist Joe Locke and singers John Hendricks and Gregory Porter. Other credits include work with more mainstream entertainers such as Dionne Warwick, Paloma Faith, Jess Glynne and Seth McFarlane.
Gavita is perhaps best known to London jazz audiences as a member of the Ronnie Scott’s house quinte and orchestra and as part of the band Fletch’s Brew, led by drummer Mark Fletcher, another regular presence at Ronnie’s.
Amidst all of his other musical activities Gavita leads his own long running quartet and it’s this line up that can be heard on this, his recording début as a leader. “Transient” was financed by a Kickstarter campaign and features the talents of pianist Tom Cawley, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren. The album title reflects the ever changing nature of jazz and the fact that every night’s performance is unique.
Besides the playing of a stellar collection of British jazz musicians the album also puts the emphasis on Gavita the composer on an all original programme. The trumpeter has written before and his work in this context has previously featured on albums by vocalist Alexander Stewart and trombonist Callum Au but this collection is altogether more personal with many of the pieces inspired by people, places and personal events. Some insight into the inspirations behind the original pieces are provided by the album liner notes which are written by Gavita’s friend and sometime collaborator, saxophonist George Crowley.
Maddren’s drums introduce album opener “Strimming the Ham” with its robust but slightly off kilter grooves providing the basis for bravura solos from Gavita and Cawley. It’s a kind of updating of the “Sidewinder” type of tune that used to open so many of the classic Blue Note albums of the 1960s.
At first glance the title of “Turneround” would appear to homage one of those albums, saxophonist Hank Mobley’s “The Turnaround” from 1965. However the piece was written in honour of Gavita’s friend and fellow trumpeter Richard Turner who died suddenly and tragically at an early age back in 2012. The feel of the piece is far from mournful, instead it’s the celebration of a life well lived but tragically cut short. Again i’ts vaguely in the Blue Note mould with complex but still propulsive rhythms fuelling Gavita’s pyrotechnics on flugel horn plus an extended work out for the excellent Gourlay. Cawley also impresses and it’s good to hear him soloing in a relatively straight-ahead jazz context. The ever inventive and colourful Maddren also features strongly throughout.
“Beloved”, originally written for Callum Au, slows things down and is an elegant ballad that features Gavita’s purity of tone alongside Cawley’s piano lyricism and Maddren’s deftly detailed brushwork. But even here there’s a sense of daring about the playing, it’s not just about mere prettiness.
Similarly the following “Yearning” with its sweet toned trumpet floating above a bustling but uplifting and consistently interesting groove as Cawley weighs in with a mercurial solo. Inspired by late night travels in London the piece also includes something of a feature for the excellent Maddren.
“Sprezzatura” is tricky and boppish, almost Coleman-esque, and offers yet another example of Gavita’s flawless technique as he rides an even busier groove with bass and drums churning about him. Gourlay also comes to the fore with a wonderfully dexterous solo on a piece performed entirely in trio mode with Maddren also enjoying a series of colourful drum breaks.
Gavita was recently married and “The Vow” celebrates his wedding day, the edgy opening motif expressing the nervousness implicit in the event before eventually mutating into an exultant trumpet solo. Cawley also features strongly and Maddren is a prompting, colourful presence throughout, his playing helping to shape the music.
The shimmer of Maddren’s cymbals introduces “Lion-O” and he also performs a number of ‘mini solos’ in a piece that is essentially a dialogue between the drummer and the rest of the band.
“Iverson Oddity” is presumably named for the now ex Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. It’s a melodic, lyrical piece that doesn’t sound remotely like the Bad Plus but does feature engaging solos from Cawley, Gavita and Gourlay.
“Pull Your Socks” features a relaxed, orthodox jazz groove with Maddren’s brush work underpinning the gentle but absorbing explorations of Cawley, Gavita and Gourlay.
The album closes with the warm sounds of the gospel infused “The Buffalo Trace”, which some have compared to the work of Nat Adderley. The languid bass and drum grooves support the final solo outings from Gavita and Cawley and help to close the album on a relaxed and positive note.
“Transient” represents an impressive, if long awaited, début statement from Gavita. The musicianship is excellent throughout with engineer Curtis Schwartz capturing every nuance of the playing. Gavita’s technique is never in doubt but he also impresses with his writing on a varied set of tunes that encompasses a variety of jazz styles and explores a lot of interesting rhythmic and harmonic ideas. Arguably it’s a little too derivative at times and clearly has its roots in the classic Blue Note era but Gavita brings enough of himself to the project to make it sound convincing and contemporary.
I would imagine that this quartet is a highly exciting live band and London audiences will get the chance to check them out when the album is launched at Ronnie Scott’s on the evening of 19th April 2017 with the official release date following shortly afterwards on April 28th.
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