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, James “Blood” Ulmer reveals the indomitable heart of a master, unadorned.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“The missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery…” —Village Voice
“Ulmer has the power to overthrow the amiability common to good-time electric-blues for a spooky netherworld” – New York Times
“There is no more distinctive and startling sound in jazz guitar.” —JazzTimes