James Blood Ulmer

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We've had a thread on Sonny Sharrock just recently (listened to 'Black woman' again and its really wonderful, nothing terribly complex) today and so I'd like to ask for thoughts on james blood ulmer.

'Tales of Captain Black' is the one that gets talked abt but I've never seen it in the racks. But give me more recommendations and if i see anything then i'll check it out.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 25 May 2003 18:45 (twenty years ago) link

I've got 'Captain Black', which is everything it's cracked up to be and more. Ornette and JBU work really well together, it's a shame they didn't do more records. Other than that, I've never really enjoyed the Blood Ulmer stuff I've heard. A lot of it is really dated.

Dave M. (rotten03), Sunday, 25 May 2003 18:52 (twenty years ago) link

I've got it too; LP on Artists House, I've never seen another copy. Like the Sharrock, I haven't played it in years. Maybe my interest in the kind of stuff will surface again.

Sean (Sean), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:31 (twenty years ago) link

damn you all ;)

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:33 (twenty years ago) link

It was given a fairly wide release on DIW at some point in the 90s - can't be that hard to find, can it?

Dave M. (rotten03), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:38 (twenty years ago) link

That DIW CD is still available as an EXPENSIVE import.

Budget price option: 'Lawrence of Newark' by Larry Young, w/ a young JBU plus large outfreak ensemble

Andrew L (Andrew L), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:40 (twenty years ago) link

Or: 'Song X' by Pat Metheney!

Andrew L (Andrew L), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:41 (twenty years ago) link

I used to like Man Dance. Not sure about it now (since I don't have a copy).

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:43 (twenty years ago) link

ho ho.

um, I think I'll get 'lawrence' sometime this week.

I'll wait for some sort of affordable reissue of 'tales'.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:44 (twenty years ago) link

so what other stuff did he do with ornette? also did he do any solo stuff?

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:45 (twenty years ago) link

Was Man Dance by Ronald Shanon Jackson? I think I got the two mixed up after a couple decades of having originally heard it.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:49 (twenty years ago) link

Ronald was a drummer (was just hearing him playing with cecil taylor actually).

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:53 (twenty years ago) link

something worth finding in that vein is Roland Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society - "Eye On You". Lots of great freaks (Billy Bang etc), and RSJ plays with the same kind of Last Exit / "Tales" feel.

Dave M. (rotten03), Sunday, 25 May 2003 19:59 (twenty years ago) link

I remember quite liking 'Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher' years ago, but not particularly my thing.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 25 May 2003 20:24 (twenty years ago) link

mandance is rsj yes (and great also)

he gave up drumming after cecil in the 60s and worked in wall street for abt 15 years, then took up drumming again and formed the decoding soc

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 25 May 2003 22:30 (twenty years ago) link

"after a couple decades of having originally heard it"

That didn't make any sense, but it is still perfectly comprehensible.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 25 May 2003 23:07 (twenty years ago) link

I downloaded Tales of Captain Black and enjoy it immensely. I listened to it today, actually. The drumming really does it for me (guitar is nice too)

Adam A. (Keiko), Monday, 26 May 2003 00:35 (twenty years ago) link

I wanted to see him play with Hubert Sumlin as part of a tribute to Howlin' Wolf at the Pinewood Stomp festival in New Orleans at the end of April. The NY Times had a writeup of that event(with the Jazz & Blues heritage Fest) by Jon Pareles but I don't rember whether it mentioned Ulmer. I saw him live in Wash. D.C. way back in the 80s...He had a pretty ferocious guitar sound live as I recall.

Steve Kiviat (Steve K), Monday, 26 May 2003 04:56 (twenty years ago) link

I'm surprised no-ones mentioned Odyssey, much better than his funky stuff and has some great violin playing and drumming. Has anyone heard the Odyssey reunion LP?

hamish (hamish), Monday, 26 May 2003 08:34 (twenty years ago) link

I like JBU; the poster above who says a lot of it's dated is right, in a way--the Columbia LPs he did ("Black Rock" and "Free Lancing") do suffer in places from over-production. On the other hand, "Black Rock" contains some pretty amazing stuff that to my ears works just fine as a "produced" version of what he did before on Artists House. I would say get "Black Rock"--I found a cheap used LP not long ago. "Odyssey" is his solo masterpiece to date, in my opinion.
Also Columbia, 2 records he did with Arthur Blythe, "Lenox Avenue Breakdown" and "Illusions," both c. 1980, are two very very fine jazz records, and Ulmer adds a lot to both.
I also recently found an orig. LP of Artists House's "Are You Glad to Be in America," which I find pretty wonderful and about as strong as "Captain Black."
"Live at the Caravan of Dreams" is not bad, either.
I haven't heard his "Harmolodic with Strings" LP. And a lot of the more conventional blues-vocal stuff he's done is boring.
Finally, I have grown to like his Memphis blues album, "Memphis Blood" (rec. at the Sun studios w/Vernon Reid et al) quite a bit. He does the very clichéd Willie Dixon blooze classics, Otis Rush, one Rice Miller tune, and an amazing 9-minute version of Son House's "Death Letter." They really attack the tunes and while I generally never want to hear anyone do most of those songs again, this album is the exception. His version of the old Bob Carter song "Too Lazy to Work, and Too Nervous to Steal," done back in the late '40s, is Ulmer at his most charming.
I haven't heard the "Odyssey" reunion CD--old Christgau gives it a pretty good grade, though.
Julio, if you want a CD of any of the Ulmer, I can burn one for ya, no problem...I've been wanting to sit down and make a compilation of his stuff anyway...

Jess Hill (jesshill), Monday, 26 May 2003 15:45 (twenty years ago) link

jess- thanks for the offer. you have email.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 26 May 2003 17:56 (twenty years ago) link

Odyssey is one of my fave recordings of the '80s, period. Just guitar, drums, and violin (with a few JBU vocal numbers, which most fans have resigned themselves to), and I think it still kicks ass, blows my head off, insert cliche here. Sadly, it is the only one of his troika of aforementioned CBS albums reissued on disc so far. Among the other two, Black Rock is definitely worth searching out.

And I second Jess on Are You Glad to Be in America, which is sort of the bridge between his Ornette period and the more rock-flavored stuff he tried on the first two CBS records. After Odyssey, it's probably my fave (followed by Black Rock).

Once again, Bill Laswell rears his ugly head. Ever since the dreadful, dreadful JBU album he produced for Blue Note, I haven't rated any of the recordings I've heard.

Lee G (Lee G), Tuesday, 27 May 2003 17:15 (twenty years ago) link

This post will look very similar to my Ronald Shannon Jackson one, ok?

It's been a (LONG) while, but here are the ones I used to swear by:

Tales of Captain Black (listened to this less than the three below)
Black Rock
Odyssey (the one I'd buy again, if I was gonna buy one again)

I forget if I ever heard his Music Revelation Ensemble *No Wave* one, but I definitely remember its existence, if only for its name.

chuck, Tuesday, 27 May 2003 19:33 (twenty years ago) link

six years pass...

I got Japanese imports of Are you Glad, Free Lancing and Black Rock in the late 90s, but was never able to find a reasonably priced copy of Tales Of Captain Black. It should be reissued someday I would think. In the meantime, maybe the flac files can be found somewhere.

Fastnbulbous, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 17:08 (fourteen years ago) link

four weeks pass...

Picked up a cheap LP copy of Black Rock the other day, in search of something different to listen to, and I'm not sure I understand the overproduction complaints. It's produced in the manner of an 80s jazz/funk record - like Material or something - and the result is rather sterile, with each element of the sound pushed into a tidy little box, and nothing poking out to disrupt the flow. The guitar tone suffers for this - it's a bit thin and bloodless, and I do find myself wanting to hear MORE of it now and then, especially in the denser and more improvisatory passages. It's a very restrained production, though, and the clear, spacious sound serves the music's agitated swing nicely, leaving lots of room for everyone to move around in. I can see as how, from a rock fan's perspective, the sound might lack body and violence, but I appreciate the emphasis on instrumental balance & interplay. Maybe not a great record, but it's got its moments.

from alcoholism to fleshly concerns (contenderizer), Thursday, 12 November 2009 04:42 (fourteen years ago) link

Main problem for me isn't the production, but the emphasis on vocals. Much prefer the instrumental passages.

from alcoholism to fleshly concerns (contenderizer), Thursday, 12 November 2009 04:43 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

At this point I'd probably pay one of my fingers for the elusive Ornette bootleg Lonely Woman Trio 66 / Quartet 74 (the latter of which has JBU on guitar and fucking SIRONE on bass!!!!!) = my most wanted LP. I think it's a 4xLP thing, on the Japanese label P-Vine. If anyone has this in digital form, I really just wanna hear the fuckin' thing at this point!!!

If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Friday, 3 February 2012 04:23 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

Listening to Part Time on Spotify -- Odyssey band live. Good stuff

Meant to post this in this thread. I might even prefer this to Odyssey. A bit more ragged.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 26 June 2013 11:27 (ten years ago) link

five years pass...

After listening back to this stuff this last few days, I have to say: I've always liked the idea behind Odyssey more than the reality. I do think it compares favorably to the other two Columbia records he did, Free Lancing and Black Rock (both of which I like). But as much as he kind of did a unique thing on that record--with the violin, no bass, and the different guitar tuning--I think I prefer him when he's a bit more unhinged and not doing modal dirges.

By contrast, the stuff he was doing right after Tales from Captain Black ca. 1980--Are You Glad To Be In America? and No Wave, the record he did leading Music Revelation Ensemble--feels to me a little more energetic and raw -- but still very Blood, with his signature polytonal blues licks. Are You Glad To Be In America? is a pretty ferocious record and the double drum set of Weston and Shannon Jackson is terrific. But No Wave is better than I remember -- in a similar vein, albeit a bit freer and slimmed down (only one horn w Murray and one drummer) and no vocals. Even a tune like "Big Tree" (which *is* a modal dirge) feels more lively and has a slightly more interesting head than anything on Odyssey, which often feels less like tunes and more like jams.

Naive Teen Idol, Saturday, 11 August 2018 19:18 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

'are you glad to be in america?' blowing my mind today

global tetrahedron, Wednesday, 20 November 2019 19:06 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

This sounds great: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8vmb6QNPWE

Just Another Onionhead (Sund4r), Saturday, 3 April 2021 23:42 (two years ago) link

he's so amazing

global tetrahedron, Sunday, 4 April 2021 02:38 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Just saw him play a solo show in a Harvard Square church last night. I think some of the old-ish audience was a little confused as it was a monthly harmolodic jazz thing Dave Bryant organizes with former Prime Time guys but this was Blood singing a bunch of three minute Skip James-y blues songs. Still, his guitar accompaniment was pure.Odyssey – dirge-y but polytonal, slightly extended and quietly complex as hell. I was pretty fascinated.

Naive Teen Idol, Friday, 17 November 2023 15:19 (three weeks ago) link

Cool. Glad he’s still active

curmudgeon, Friday, 17 November 2023 19:14 (three weeks ago) link

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