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JAMES BLOOD ULMER

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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James Blood Ulmer picture
James Blood Ulmer biography
James Blood Ulmer was born on February 2 1942 in St Matthews South Carolina. After early stints with RnB/jazz bands in Pittsburg and Detroit, James moved to NYC in 1974. After arriving in NY Ulmer picked up work with Art Blakey, Larry Young, Big John Patton and others. Eventually Ulmer hooked up with Ornette Coleman and became part of his revolutionary Prime Time jazz rock band. Ulmer's use of rhythmic single note lines that function as rhythm and solo at the same time fit perfectly with Ornette's vision of har-melodic music made of intertwining improvised melodies.

In 1978 James went solo with his release, Tales of Captain Black, followed closely by Are You Glad to be in America. These recordings put Ulmer at the forefront of a NYC based musical movement sometimes dubbed "punk jazz" or "punk funk" by the musical press. Ulmer's rough unpretentious sound and mix of avant-jazz, funk, blues and rock opened the door for more NYC based artists such as Bill Laswell, DeFunkt, John Zorn, James White, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Vernon Reid. Ulmer continues to perform and record to this day.

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JAMES BLOOD ULMER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

JAMES BLOOD ULMER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 3 ratings
Revealing
1977
4.35 | 8 ratings
Tales Of Captain Black
1979
3.50 | 2 ratings
Are You Glad To Be In America?
1980
4.09 | 4 ratings
Free Lancing
1981
3.83 | 4 ratings
Black Rock
1982
4.64 | 6 ratings
Odyssey
1983
5.00 | 1 ratings
America - Do You Remember The Love?
1987
4.00 | 2 ratings
The Blues Allnight
1989
3.00 | 1 ratings
Black And Blues
1991
3.00 | 1 ratings
Blues Preacher
1993
3.00 | 1 ratings
Harmolodic Guitar With Strings
1993
3.50 | 2 ratings
Plays The Music Of Ornette Coleman : Music Speaks Louder Than Words
1996
3.00 | 1 ratings
Forbidden Blues
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Reunion (as Odyssey The Band)
1998
3.08 | 3 ratings
Blue Blood
2001
3.00 | 1 ratings
Memphis Blood - The Sun Sessions
2001
3.00 | 2 ratings
No Escape From The Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions
2003
3.00 | 1 ratings
Guitar Music (with Rodolphe Burger)
2003
0.00 | 0 ratings
Back in Time (as Odyssey The Band)
2005
4.00 | 2 ratings
Birthright
2005
3.00 | 1 ratings
Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions
2007
3.00 | 1 ratings
In And Out
2009

JAMES BLOOD ULMER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Part Time
1984
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live At The Caravan Of Dreams
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
Wings
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at the Bayerischer Hof
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Black Rock Reunion Live (with Grant Calvin Weston and Mark Peterson)
2009

JAMES BLOOD ULMER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

JAMES BLOOD ULMER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

JAMES BLOOD ULMER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

JAMES BLOOD ULMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Black Rock by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.83 | 4 ratings

BUY
Black Rock
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Black Rock indeed!

James "Blood" Ulmer's reinterpretation of Rock, the way he envisions it, in his own planet, one orbiting near the Jimi Hendrix one.

"Black Rock",1982, states the kind of unapologetic and heartfelt black power Rock which never really came to be after Jimi Hendrix' s premature death.

Following his own intuition, his personal influences (which are, actually, the farthest distance from Prog as you could ever imagine them to be), yet close to Prog's Jazz/Fusion in the form of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman which are also shining moons in these orbits.

Progressive to the top as far as time signature syncopation, according to the Prog's unwritten "book of protocols", goes and breaking away from all kind of "what expected" Jazz/Fusion cliched habits by owning a unique musical language, both as performer and composer, which includes his majestic and deep vocals, when he sings, which happens briefly in this album in which he features vocalist Irene Datcher on a couple of tracks.

As far as giving an explanation of what to expect, music wise, for those not previously acquainted with the "BLOOD", this album explores the possibilities in blending SIMULTANEOUSLY> Rock, Rhythm and Blues, Punk and funky Psychedelics in a very Prog and un-Jazz/Prog fashion, which irreverence, here and there, may scare away some Rock/Jazz purists, but will welcome some F. Zappa kind of followers here and there the same.

Daring and personal with a loosely/tight clockwork 4 piece unit (+ sax on two tracks) performances, his personal musical language continues what the previous and groundbreaking "Free Lancing", 1981, proposed.

****4 PA stars

 Birthright by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.00 | 2 ratings

BUY
Birthright
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One man, one guitar, one voice and his ethereal Blues universe!

I must forewarn you! This could hardly be considered PROG!

This my friend, is called "The Blues" and in its purest form. So, maybe even "Blooders" , will feel kind of surprised! Yep! " Birthright", 2005, is master bluesman James "Blood" Ulmer's retribution to the MUSIC roots, that so encouraged him to be what he became.

Sitting down by himself, the skillful guitarist / flutist, composer James "Blood" Ulmer, takes on sigle handedly an intense and personal trip into the nakedness of the primal blues composition's style. Delivering an intimate repertoire of 10 new own pen-written songs (+ 2 covers), which masterful simplicity, could only be compared to the LEGENDS that brought on this musical style.

To name some references I will think of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins and the beloved Willie Dixon (there is a cover of his trend-setting "I Ain't Superstitious".), just to suggest where this album heads on.

So I will address mainly BLUES and Rock followers, maybe some Jazz/Fusioners, and then any other curious Prog cat who may enjoy this kind of musical style.

I myself, grew up with the music of those legends. And James "Blood" Ulmer can stand alongside any of those masters, is his own earned " Birthright " to do so!

Easy ****4.5 PA stars!

 Odyssey by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 1983
4.64 | 6 ratings

BUY
Odyssey
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Great to find James Blood Ulmer included in this prog page. This record moves towards and has all the best elements of Jazz that are so close to Prog, as to become invisible borders.

For newcomers JBU sounds like JBU. No latin or world jazz fusions, closer to old traditional blues standards, his language in composition makes no compromises to this school nor other.

His approach is completely free of cliches, in fact it is quiet wild, BUT, not funky at all. Intelligent songs performed tightlly by an interesting bass-less trio, violin, drums and the virtuous JBU's electric guitars and mystically subversive vocals.

This album is completely progressive contemporary Jazz/Rock/Blues do not mistake its "fusion" intentions. In fact, if the" Post/Jazz-Rock" tagging was available, ODYSSEY will fit in perfectly.

So as mentioned do not expect, Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, O. Coleman or even Miles kind of prog/jazz . Odyssey stands alone, closer if need to compare to, with Hendrix songwriting, without the funk (and bass player), but with all the prog-fury and gentleness required. The comparison comes in quiet handy considering JBU's guitar playing skills but JBU musical language is his own and no oene else´s.

Highly recommendable for any prog enthusias., It trascends its own roots to become a any prog follower great acquisition.

*****5 "flawless" PA stars!

 Blue Blood by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.08 | 3 ratings

BUY
Blue Blood
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BORA

3 stars Only filling gaps here.

I welcome Ulmer's inclusion here, although I do acknowledge that it's skirting the definition of Prog criteria as applied by PA. Many of Ulmer's albums have been treasured possessions in my music collection for quite a few years, so I am definitely not complaining.

His style is raw, rough and generally hard to box into any one genre. Electric Blues is perhaps the most dominant, alongside Jazz, Free-Jazz, Funk, R&B mixed with some Avant. But at times he also sounds like acoustic John Lee Hooker, or even Hendrix. He is not a "directionless bimbo", but a versatile and very productive artist. His unique style on the guitar often appears to be amateurish, but in reality, it's very much like instinctive Blues roots. The coarse talking vocals matches it perfectly.

"Blue Blood" is a decent album, but not one of my fave Ulmer releases. Largely due to his choice of supporting musicians, some of whom are recognized artists on their own. Here they either excessively dominate (Laswell), or fail to impress (Worrell). The end result is a bit of a hybrid, more of an experiment than a resounding success.

Bill Laswell (bass) is another talented any very unique artist, but with a habit of imposing himself on others. Be that Pharoah Sanders, Ginger Baker, or even long gone Miles Davis by "reconstructing" some of his early 70's tracks. Here, he managed to nail Ulmer down as well.

A true chameleon in music, playing styles between Jazz, Jazz-Rock, Indo-Raga, Industrial, Avant, but largely Dub. On "Blue Blood" he wears his Dub hat and it doesn't really come off to my liking as a successful combination with Ulmer.

Bernie Worrell (organ) is also represented in my collection as a sideman on many albums. In all honesty, his contributions have never really captured my attention and here it is of no exception, Chances are that I am missing something, but truly, I wouldn't miss him on this album, either.

My conclusion is that it's a somewhat enjoyable release, but far from Ulmer's best - due to the Dub elements..

 Tales Of Captain Black by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.35 | 8 ratings

BUY
Tales Of Captain Black
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Tales of Captain Black hit the world of jazz-rock fusion in the late 70s like a hot slap in the face. Following on the heels of his mentor Ornette Coleman's release 'Dancing in Your Head', on which Ulmer played guitar, Blood Ulmer continues Ornette's excursions into bizarre avant rock- jazz in a style that was a bold affront to the reigning fuzak of the day. 'Tales' picks up Ornette's rambling Captain Beefheart flavored rural cubist jagged RnB and adds more avant-garde elements, especially in the bizarre rhythms supplied by the uncompromising drummer son of Ornette, Denardo Coleman. Whereas 'Dancing in Your Head' tended to hit a weird groove and stay there, the tunes on 'Tales' often feature multiple part poly-rhythms with each of the four band members seeming to operate independently of each other.

Trying to describe this music is tough, along with the aforementioned Don Van Vliet, John French and Ornette Coleman precedents, there is also an influence of avant-garde European concert hall chamber music in the clarity and independence of the individual instrumental lines. Some might also hear a Chris Cutler/Fred Frith influence in some of the rambling improvisations. Although little of this music may resemble Hendrix on the surface, Jimi's presence is felt in Ulmer's raw upfront guitar sound and frequent use of a wah pedal. Keep in mind that in 78-79, when this album came out, working class guitar virtuosos were hard to come by as guitar less Kraftwerk clones and chops-challenged punk rockers ruled the day and wah-wah pedals were neither seen nor heard.

Uncompromising, unconventional and as raw as the NYC streets from which it came, Tales of Captain Black still sounds as fresh today as it did when it first came out when very little else sounded like it. Tough and unpolished, yet sophisticated and intellectual at the same time, this album is a rare work of genius.

 Tales Of Captain Black by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.35 | 8 ratings

BUY
Tales Of Captain Black
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Wow!

It happened to me I first heard James album from 2003 with interesting, unusual vintage blues songs. I really liked his simple but personal guitar sounds and vocals there, but hardly imagine he could be avant garde jazz guitar player.

Then, when I found this, his very early album from late 70-s, I decided just to check it. Without too big expectation. And I must to say now I change my mind!

From very first sounds I understood - there is very different music from Ulmer's blues! OK, album's line-up included Ornette Coleman on sax and his son Denardo on drums, Prime Time's bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma as well. So - the music on this album was what could be expected from such musicians - free jazz. With Ulmer's electric guitar and funky feeling, but at the same time with some simplistic rhythm and structures. With late 70-s pre-punk NY downtown atmosphere. Amazing!

Most important, Ulmer brings to album's music some melodic elements and Hendrix' guitar atmosphere, what makes the great free form music slightly framed, more landed and simply complex at the same time. No filler - all compositions sound in their place. And such a great moment's atmosphere from studio album!

Yes, this album changed my minds about Ulmer's music. Very recommended to everyone interested in free funk roots, or any free jazz from late 70-s, you will find one great album there.

 Free Lancing by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.09 | 4 ratings

BUY
Free Lancing
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars In the late 70s and early 80s the jazz rock scene in New York City stood far apart from the rest of the states, and much of the rest of the world as well. While most of the big fusion stars of the mid-70s were content to let their music slide into the somewhat profitable but forever dull world of fuzak, the NYC scene took a totally different path; gritty, tough, noisy, streetwise music that was the opposite of sophisto-lite dinner jazz for the nuevo yuppie crowd. In the late 70s Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking avant funk band Prime Time paved the way, while countless post-punkers with jazz chops and avant-jazzers saw a chance to get their unique take on jazz rock off the street corner and up on a real stage or club. By 1981 James Blood Ulmer was practically a poster child for this new genre that the press often called punk-jazz or punk-funk, his raw mix of be-bop, funk, avant-rock and Ornette styled freedom was the perfect mix for the NYC pallet.

This album is a tour de force representative of the so called punk jazz sound of the early 80s. Ulmer's ensemble on here includes some of the finest jazz musicians of this style and era, and their playing is inspired and on fire. All is not just pure energy either, the fast unison lines from the horn players display a finely honed technique that hadn't been heard in jazz since the classic days of high speed be-bop. In between the intense jazz numbers we are treated to a couple very earthy funk numbers, backed by female vocalists, that were a harsh wake up call against the slick disco-funk of the early 80s. These 'punk-funk' numbers help break up the constant searing attack of the jazzier numbers.

A lot of the drum rhythms on here are bizarre and are the complete opposite of the sort of abstract intellectualized dinner-funk that was prevalent in the world of fusion at this time. Drummer Calvin Weston pulls a lot of influence from Ronald Shannon Jackson with his constant 'drum line' attack on the toms and the almost country-punk feel of the charging 4 on the floor hi-energy assault on the verge of chaos feel of many numbers.

This is a great album and these musicians are in top form as they play with a rare and classic virtuosity. Free Lancing is highly recommended for fans of avant-garde jazz as well as other punky jazz groups such as Prime Time, Vernon Reid or Material. My only complaint is that the constant energy and relentless drumming on some numbers can be a little numbing.

 No Escape From The Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions by ULMER, JAMES BLOOD album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.00 | 2 ratings

BUY
No Escape From The Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions
James Blood Ulmer Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Even if James Blood Ulmer music has its roots in Ornette Coleman free-jazz ( he played in Coleman's band) and free-funk , in XXI century he came as blues guitarist and singer.

This album (recorded in legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York) is real blues album. This time Ulmer took as material mostly blues standards from blues golden era. But don't worry - he is playing the blues in his own manner. Not deep and dirty, but more light and flat, mixing Hendrix sharpness of rock with some free-jazz guitar techniques.

Music in are very minimalistic, with vintage electric/acoustic guitar sound, coming from many decades ago. Vernon Reid plays second solo guitar and great pianist /keyboardist Leon Gruenbaum is a third soloist there. Rhythm section, violin, harmonica and superb female vocalist Queen Esther all add their best. Very authentic, a bit psychedelic atmosphere of this recording will catch many blues lovers.

It's difficult to valuate this work in a light of progressive rock: being good unorthodox blues album, it could attract many blues lovers, but hardly will be interesting for jazz-rock fusion lovers. But if you are open ear music fan - just try, may be you will find some new interest in music.

Just 3 there (will be 4 on the blues site)

Thanks to easy money for the artist addition.

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