James Blood Ulmer Trio
Previously Performed in: 2016, 2008
(New York City, USA) Blues, Funk
James Blood Ulmer is to the guitar as David Lynch is to filmmaking, covering a wide swath of historical and spiritual bandwidth. 70-year-old Ulmer’s music has always drifted in the direction of the dark side: sometimes dissonant, often frenetic, with influences of funk, rock and soul, and raggedly soulful vocals. Ulmer grew up in South Carolina, playing in his father’s gospel band before being drawn to the world of jazz. After moving to New York in 1971, Ulmer played with jazz artists and innovators Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, Paul Bley and Rashied Ali, joining free jazz saxophone genius Ornette Coleman in the early '70s as the first electric guitarist to record and tour extensively with him. He found a mentor in Coleman; work in his band created Ulmer’s trademark stuttering guitar style, dubbed 'harmolodics' and inflected with accents reminiscent of a soul-jazz tenor sax. Later in the decade the Hendrix influence asserted itself and Ulmer released a series of raw and aggressive solo albums soaked in blues and funk-bordering-on-punk; still frenetic, still dark, described at the time as 'avant-gutbucket' – conjuring images of Skip James and Albert Ayler jamming on the Mississippi Delta.
As a freelance guitarist who has forged a style based largely on the traditions of African-American vernacular music, it was natural that Blood dug deeply into an investigation of the blues as the century turned. Lately, Ulmer’s music – mostly produced by Vernon Reid – has taken a bluesy turn, with one critic calling it some of the greasiest, knottiest, most surreal blues ever. From his solo work, to playing in bands the Music Revelation Ensemble, Phalanx, Odyssey The Band and Third Rail, to sideman and guest work, he's appeared on over 63 recordings. In a world where guitar players stick to the same groove and regurgitate the same old licks, James Blood Ulmer is a fiercely eccentric original whose music is compelling intellectually and emotionally.