The Columbus, Ohio native drummer/bandleader James Gaiters is one of the most swinging and rocksteady drummers on the scene today, as evidenced byhis high profile gigs with Mulgrew Miller, David Murray, James Carter, and the jazz organ virtuoso Jimmy Smith, to name a select few. Gaiters is a student of the jazzorgan trio tradition, and his new CD, Understanding Reimagined is his swinging and soulful 21st century take on the great organ/soul jazz pioneer John Patton’s1968 Blue Note album Understanding, that featured tenor saxophonist/flutist Harold Alexander and drummer Hugh Walker.
Backed by his group, the James Gaiters Soul Revival, featuring tenor saxophonist Edwin Bayard, guitarist Kevin Turner, and Robert Mason on organ, theleader adds his own syncopated sonic signature to Patton’s original six selections. Alexander’s “Ding Dong,” is rhythmically rendered in a peppery, boogaloogroove. Gaiters reminisces in tempo on the Sam Gary/Mark Nash title track, and puts a nice West Indian beat to the Isaac Hayes-penned, Sam & Dave hit, “Soul Man,” contrasted by his turbo-charged rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Alfie’s Theme.” Gaiters’ take on Patton’s “Congo Chant” perfectly bookends JohnColtrane’s “Africa,” complete with Bayard’s sizzling Coltranesque “sheets of sound,” and Gaiters’ in-the-pocket solo. On Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins con Carne,”the group slows things down to a soothing, blues-in-the-night mood, equally at home on the jukebox and in the juke joint.
Understanding Reimagined is Gaiters’ third CD as a leader. His previous recordings include, Looking Back Ahead, and Exodus—both with his MUV-MeNTensemble—and he also performs with the Columbus-based Afro-pop, soul-jazz collective, Watu Utungo, which means “Rhythmic People” in Swahili. Gaitersstarted playing drums at the age of fou.r His mother played piano, and his father is a pasto.r He grew up listening to a wide berth of music that ranged form WyntonMarsalis and Chick Corea, to the Yellowjackets, and Stanley Clarke. He played in local bands, planned to study architecture in college, and in 1994 played in theOhio State University Jazz Ensemble, where he met Bayard. Gaiters’ big break came when toured with MoJazz recording artist, trumpeter Pharez Whitted.
In addition to the aforementioned artists he worked with, Gaiters also performed a wiht a number of jazz and pop stars including, Frank Foste,r Andrew White,Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Tim Warfield, JD Allen, Terell Stafford, Neena Freelon and James Earl Jones. Gaiters has also toured nationally, and internationallywith New York based musician/actor/poet, David Gonzales’ Mytholojazz, an off-Broadway version of the Greek myth of Orpheus, and of the Chilean legend,Delgadina, and was part of trumpeter/composer Hannibal Lokumbe’s opus, African Portraits: a celebration of African American resilience, culture and art.
As Dr. Ted McDaniel, Prof. Emeritus of Ohio State University wrote in the liner notes to Understanding Reimagined, “[w]hat the Gaiters band does isremarkable and gives us reason to smile because they have found new and expressive ways to create differences from the previous and/or original versions of this music, with much success.”