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James Blood Ulmer: In And Out

Dan Bilawsky By
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James Blood Ulmer: In And Out
The title of this record is simultaneously a tip of the hat toward the record label which released it and an appropriate explanation of the music contained within. James Blood Ulmer's sound resides at the crossroads where Jimi Hendrix's blues-rock collides with Ornette Coleman's music; where gutsy blues songs meet the avant-garde. His voice bears some similarity to Hendrix's—with a little bit of Richie Havens' low end thrown in and a primordial blues delivery that's earth-shaking, brilliant, and increasingly expressive as the years go by.

Throughout these ten tracks, Ulmer—joined by bassist Mark E. Peterson and drummer Aubrey Dayle—journeys through bold blues music, self-styled swing, psychedelic rock and far-reaching free jazz. His vocals on "No Man's Land" show a confident, aggressive singer, capable of delivering scorching guitar lines that cut to the heart of the matter. "A Thing For Joe" quickly takes things in another direction, as Dayle's hyper, tumbling drumming borders on the brink of chaos, but always hangs on by a thread. Ulmer delivers some skittering guitar lines and a hard-driving flute solo that is more "out" than "in." Peterson and Dayle both get some space to show off here, though Ulmer quickly goes in a different direction for the third track, "Fat Mama." Guitar histrionics that come out like a stormy blues-rock raga are front-and-center at the top of the tune, but this caustic yet creative area is quickly left behind when a solid groove is established, locked in by sixteenth notes on the hi-hat. Ulmer proves himself an elemental blues force, lighting up the track with his guitar work, with the song ending in the same uncertain manner as it began.

A cool, strolling swing feel sits behind Ulmer on "Eviction." His dapper, hip lines, sounding slightly brittle with a bit more reverb added, contrast nicely with the more explosive sounds of other tracks. If alternative rockers Primus ever collaborated with Bo Diddley, it might have ended up sounding something like "Baby Talk." Dayle lays down an elemental, tribal tom groove, while Ulmer's oblique lines are one of a kind. "Maya" moves between a modern folk feel and a loose swing style, providing another great showcase for Ulmer's twin talents of voice and guitar. While the material on the first half of the album shows that Dayle can hold down a mean groove and follow Ulmer out to the furthest reaches of time, "High Yellow" gives him a chance to show a more melodic side. His drum solo here is a far more nuanced display of skill and taste. His comping is exciting and adds to the big picture, while Peterson proves to be the rock solid presence that holds it all together.

The music on James Blood Ulmer's In And Out lives up to the title, covering both extremes in its name and everything between them.


Track Listing: No Man's Land; A Thing For Joe; Fat Mama; Eviction; Baby Talk; Maya; My Woman; High Yellow; I Believe In You; Backbiter.

Personnel: James Blood Ulmer: guitar, vocals, flute; Mark Peterson: bass; Aubrey Doyle: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: In+out record | Style: Fringes of Jazz


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