Odyssey the Band: Back in Time (2006)
He quickly, however, turned toward a series of blues/rock projects that dumbed down his talent and vision. When his trio with electric violinist Charles Burnham and drummer Warren Benbow came together again for 1998's Reunion (Live) (taking Odyssey as the group's name), it wasn't wholly a return to form for Ulmer: he'd already released Harmolodic Guitar with Strings and Music Speaks Louder Than Wordsboth on DIWwhich still stand as two of his best efforts. But it did suggest the (re)emergence of the sort of standing band he should have had all along. Had that been the case, the two Odyssey records might not have stood out as such brilliant points in his career.
Eight years later, Odyssey has reunioned again, and happily for the strongest record the group has done yet. Ulmer has grown into his bluesman role, with a seated growl replacing the standing bark, and so the three vocal tracks here (including a fairly surprising love-song-with-prenup) roll alongside the spirited, psychedelic and occasionally Soweto-inflected jams. Burnham's violin is more fiery than ever, using distortion and wah to give the little fiddle the oomph to stand up alongside Ulmer's big, full guitar sound.
Benbow is the odd man out, which is in a way the band's secret weapon. Without a bassist, he's got the back end wide open, and he plays free jazz behind the swirling strings and insistent riffs. It's a combination of elements they've had in place for close to 25 yearsa serious gestation, but they've finally hit it. The album's title is a happy misnomer.
Track Listing: Last One; Open Doors; Happy Time; Little Red House; Water Tree; Love Nest; Woman Coming; Channel One; Let's Get Married; Free for Three.
Personnel: James "Blood" Ulmer: guitar, vocals; Charles Burnham: violin; Warren Benbow: drums.
Record Label: Pi Recordings
Style: Beyond Jazz