Local jazz quartet James Gaiters’ MUV-Ment releases its new album Exodus today, September 23rd. The group (James Gaiters, drums (as well as composer/arranger); Eddie Bayard, tenor sax; Lovell Bradford, piano; and Dean Hulett, bass) focused on preparing the album for this specific release date because it is also John Coltrane’s birthday. This shared date is very apropos because the jazz legend’s spirit can be felt in this material. The follow-up to the MUV-Ment’s 2011 album, Looking Back Ahead, this new work features seven tracks of expressive modern jazz rooted in the classics. Their stated mission statement is to be “a great jazz group in an era where there are few groups,” and this showcase of sympathetic group playing shows the band achieving its goals.
The album is loosely split into two sides, as the first three tracks are individual pieces, while the last four songs form a suite, entitled “Pentateuch.” The opening track, the uptempo “Ups & Downs,” is spurred on by Bayard’s singsong melody and excellent solos by the entire group, including a resplendent passage by Bradford. The more deliberate “Une” follows, opening with some soft drum-kit work by Gaiters before easing into a gentle rhythm. “Creation,” the album’s shortest track, sets up the suite with a palette-cleansing open improvisation by Bayard and Gaiters. “The Book of Life” kicks off the “Pentateuch” suite with a winding intro that gives way to a slowly swinging beat, some soulful, church-inspired keys from Bradford, and dramatic, show-stopping solos from Hulett and Gaiters. After sitting out most of “The Book of Life,” Bayard returns with a vengeance on the album’s title track, swinging with a passionate fury that climaxes with a bang without losing the groove. After the weighty drama of the previous tunes, the dreamlike ballad “Grace” slows the tempo considerably and allows the band to stretch out more subtly. With a title nod to the previous album, album closer “Looking Back Ahead” employs a Bayard-powered lead reminiscent of the opening track and another fine solo by Bradford, anchored by the hard-swinging rhythm section. Exodus is a terrific jazz album that demonstrates the power of four highly-talented musicians that have played with each other for years – there are great individual performances and personal flourishes, but the band hangs together to create a well-balanced, cohesive album.
Exodus is now available online here. The MUV-Ment’s members are split geographically these days, as Hulett recently moved to San Diego and Bradford is now based in Charlotte, NC, so a release party takes a great deal of logistics and is still in the works. Gaiters is currently doing live shows with his James Gaiters Quartet, which usually features Bayard, and this group has been actively playing gigs in the Columbus area in recent months, including a regular Friday gig at Bowties Lounge (connected to the Ramada Inn at 4900 Sinclair Road). The Quartet is playing tonight (September 23rd) to celebrate Coltrane’s birthday (and the release) at Natalie’s, with a lineup of Gaiters, Bayard, William Menefield (piano), and Greg Wolfram (bass). Stay tuned for details on the forthcoming official release party.