Ostensibly a CD launch gig to promote his new album Transient (reviewed in Jazzwise's May 2017 edition), trumpeter Freddie Gavita's early-evening appearance at Ronnie Scott's Upstairs attracted a full house of well-wishers, Kickstart supporters and relatives. Oh yes, and plenty of fans of his music too. Gavita has form as far as I'm concerned as an integral part of the James Pearson Ronnie Scott's quintet and as a fluent contributor to Alex Webb's Tribute to Bird on Dial. Here, though, it was his own music that was on offer, an eclectic mix of themes, each with a tale attached, and thoughtfully presented by Gavita, always an engaging presence who sometimes looks as if he can't quite believe his luck in being able to play this music for a living.
This was Gavita's band and gig, for sure, but he's simply the first among equals on this showing and has in Tom Cawley a player whose creativity and appetite for improvisation is almost unsettlingly potent, much the same applying to James Maddren, whose dazzling array of percussive effects kept the pot boiling throughout. All this and more was evident on 'Sprezzatura', a very perky, zig-zagging theme, with a rumbling undertow from Maddren and series of two-handed downward rums from Cawley that sent Gavita into the stratosphere before he came down to earth with a sequence of short, clarion calls. 'Iverson Oddity' had to do with Ethan Iverson apparently, and seemed almost elegant by comparison, with a very neat harmonic sub-structure, Gavita poised and calm, Cawley relishing the harmonies, spacious and always taking up the unexpected option. 'The Vow' was similarly solemn, Gavita playing beautifully over a chorded, stop-time pattern, Calum Gourley's sure-footed basslines the perfect underpinning. Much the same could be said for 'The Buffalo Trace', another cleverly made piece with a relaxed, elegiac feel, Gavita's ballad capability balanced by Gourley's solo passage as Cawley comped quietly in the background.
And so it went, this young pretender setting out his stall, his instrumental prowess and command of idiom clear for all to see, his compositional skills equally evident, this audience's appreciation maximised. Nothing hackneyed here, no easy licks, that's for sure. Would I have liked to hear Gavita stretch out as he can on a conventional hard-bop line with a swinging beat? Well, yes, but that's perhaps something for another time and place.
– Peter Vacher
– Photo by Leah Thomas