James Blood Ulmer
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James "Blood" Ulmer (born February 2, 1942 in St. Matthews, South Carolina) is an American avant-garde jazz and blues guitarist and singer. Ulmer's distinctive guitar sound has been described as "jagged" and "stinging." His singing has been called "raggedly soulful."Read More...
Ulmer began his career playing with various soul jazz ensembles, and first recorded with organist John Patton in 1969. After moving to New York in 1971, Ulmer played with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, Paul Bley, Rashied Ali and Larry Young.
In the early 1970s, Ulmer joined Ornette Coleman; he was the first electric guitarist to record and tour extensively with Coleman. He has credited Coleman as a major influence, and Coleman's strong reliance on electric guitar in his fusion-oriented recordings owes a distinct debt to Ulmer.
He formed a group called the Music Revelation Ensemble with David Murray and Ronald Shannon Jackson, with whom he recorded throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Different incarnations of the group also featured Julius Hemphill, Arthur Blythe, Sam Rivers, and Hamiet Bluiett on saxophones and flutes. In the 1980s he co-led, with saxophonist George Adams, the ensemble Phalanx.
1983's Odyssey, with drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham, was described as "avant-gutbucket," leading writer Bill Milkowski to describe the music as "conjuring images of Skip James and Albert Ayler jamming on the Mississippi Delta."
Ulmer has recorded many albums as a leader, including three recent acclaimed blues-oriented records produced by Vernon Reid. Ulmer and Reid have also toured with Shannon Jackson, Melvin Gibbs (Decoding Society, Rollins Band) and Joseph Bowie (Defunkt) recently as the Punk-Funk All Stars.
In a 2005 Down Beat interview, Ulmer opined that guitar technique had not advanced since the death of Jimi Hendrix. He stated that technique could advance "if the guitar would stop following the piano," and indicated that he tunes all of his guitar strings to A.
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