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James ‘Blood’ Ulmer — Rock In Blues (2011)

James ‘Blood’ Ulmer — Rock In Blues (2011)

          James ‘Blood’ Ulmer — Rock In Blues (2011)
°   “The missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery... ” — The Village Voice
°   “There is no more distinctive and startling sound in jazz guitar.” — JazzTimes                                                     © Ulmer at Mmœrs festival 2012
Born: February 2, 1942 in St. Matthews, South Carolina
Location: New York (1971)
Album release: 1990, 2011
Record Label: Hyena Records
Genre: Rockin’ Blues
Duration:     64:50
01. Spoonful      2:56
02. I Want To Be Loved      3:13
03. Little Red Rooster      4:21
04. Dimples      3:29
05. I Just Want To Make Love To You      3:28
06. Evil      2:49
07. Money      3:33
08. Love The Life I Live      3:30
09. Double Trouble      4:56
10. I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)      8:25
11. Back Door Man      3:17
12. Ghetto Child      5:48
13. This Land Is Nobody’s Land      5:15
14. Sad Days, Lonely Nights      5:59
15. I Ain’t Superstitious      3:42
℗ 2011 Hyena Records
°   Even in an art form that requires all of its practitioners to attain an individual voice, guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer stands out as a revolutionary figure. He possesses a gutsy, soulful, and ferociously gritty sound redolent of the pungent red clay of his childhood in South Carolina. Like many other guitarists, the 70–year–old Ulmer got his start in organ combos, recording his first sessions with Hank Marr and Big John Patton. After his 1971 arrival in New York, he quickly earned a reputation working with heavyweights like Art Blakey, Joe Henderson and Larry Young. But it was his breakthrough gig with Ornette Coleman that moved Ulmer to the forefront of the scene, with a gutbucket blues–drenched attack perfectly suited for Coleman’s ensemble. Ulmer’s Grammy–nominated 2001 album, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, was called “some of the greasiest, knottiest, most surreal blues ever” by Allmusic. More recently, Ulmer has fully embraced the blues tradition with a string of sessions produced by fellow guitar iconoclast Vernon Reid, of Living Colour fame. Ulmer’s latest release is the uncompromising Rock In Blues. Playing solo, as he will on this SFJAZZ date, James “Blood” Ulmer reveals the indomitable heart of a master, unadorned.
°   Free jazz has not produced many notable guitarists. Experimental musicians drawn to the guitar have had few jazz role models; consequently, they’ve typically looked to rock–based players for inspiration. James “Blood” Ulmer is one of the few exceptions — an outside guitarist who has forged a style based largely on the traditions of African–American vernacular music. Ulmer is an adherent of saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman’s vaguely defined Harmolodic theory, which essentially subverts jazz’s harmonic component in favor of freely improvised, non–tonal, or quasi–modal counterpoint. Ulmer plays with a stuttering, vocalic attack; his lines are frequently texturally and chordally based, inflected with the accent of a soul–jazz tenor saxophonist. That’s not to say his sound is untouched by the rock tradition — the influence of Jimi Hendrix on Ulmer is strong — but it’s mixed with blues, funk, and free jazz elements. The resultant music is an expressive, hard–edged, loudly amplified hybrid that is, at its best, on a level with the finest of the Harmolodic school.
°   Ulmer began his career playing in funk bands, first in Pittsburgh (1959–1964) and later around Columbus, OH (1964–1967). Ulmer spent four years in Detroit before moving to New York in 1971. He landed a nine–month gig at the famed birthplace of bop, Minton’s Playhouse, and played very briefly with Art Blakey. In 1973, he recorded Rashied Ali Quintet with the ex–John Coltrane drummer on the Survival label. That same year, he hooked up with Ornette Coleman, whose concept affected Ulmer’s music thereafter. The guitarist’s recordings from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s exhibit a unique take on his mentor’s aesthetic. His blues and rock–tinged art was, if anything, more raw and aggressive than Coleman’s free jazz and funk–derived music (a reflection, no doubt, of Ulmer’s chosen instrument), but no less compelling from either an intellectual or an emotional standpoint. In 1981, Ulmer led the first of three record dates for Columbia, which helped to expose his music to a wider public. Around this time Ulmer began an association with tenor saxophonist David Murray, Bassist Amin Ali, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. As the Music Revelation Ensemble, this intermittent assemblage (with various other members added and subtracted) would produce a number of intense, free–blowing albums over a span of almost two decades.
°   Ulmer’s work has varied in quality over the years. In 1987, with the cooperative group Phalanx (George Adams, tenor sax; Sirone, bass; and Rashied Ali, drums), Ulmer drew successfully on the free jazz expressionism that made his name. Generally, however, Ulmer’s interest in out jazz waned in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to the extent that his music became progressively more structured, rhythmically regular, and (arguably) less inventive. Much of his later work bears scant resemblance to the edgy free jazz he played earlier. Nevertheless, ‘90s recordings with the Music Revelation Ensemble showed him still capable of playing convincingly in that vein.
°   Blood dug deeply into an investigation of the blues as the century turned. First he recorded Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions with guitarist Veron Reid both performing and producing. The album also starred veteran Ulmer sideman Charles Burnham on violin. In 2003 he issued No Escape From the Blues, recorded at Electric Lady studio. °   A thorouhgly psychedlic funky take on the genre, Reidand Burnham were present in the same roles once more, and old friend Olu Dara stopped into to contribute as well. In 2005 Blood released Birthright, on Joel Dorn’s Hyena label. It is easily his most intimatre recording. Completely solo in the studio (Reid once again produced) it contains 10 orignals and two covers of classic reportoire and takes Blood’s blues jounrey to an entirely new level. ~ Bio by Chris Kelsey
Website: http://www.jamesbloodulmer.com/

James ‘Blood’ Ulmer — Rock In Blues (2011)


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