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Blood Ulmer has always been a guitarist to watch. His leaps are blindingly quick; his pauses deafeningly still. Unfortunately his work on record has a checkered past, with masterpieces standing alongside throwaway sellout performances. Blue Blood, an obvious sequel to the most excellent record by Third Rail, features some of the same performers and a similar feel, but unfortunately falls far short.
Third Rail's South Delta Space Age, engineered (in a broad sense) by Bill Laswell, brought together complementary elements of Southern funk, blues, and raw-edged improvisation. Tunes like "Funk All Night" revealed a quirky humor and soulful blaze. Blue Blood has the same shuffle and dip, but this disc only rarely reaches an exciting level of energy. Overproduction? Hard to tell. The same bumpy rhythms percolate throughout this record, and when Ulmer sings, his ragged voice projects a welcome earthiness. The supporting band does little but play-act in the background, so any adventurism on Ulmer's part brings the action up a notch.
Interestingly, his enigmatic, twisting guitar lines on "As It Is" and "Home Alone" quote themes from his first record, Tales of Captain Black. It's as if Ulmer is circling home and perhaps got a bit lost on the way. For Blood Ulmer fans, this is an interesting record to pile on the heap, worth a listen as a document of a talent in progress. For the uninitiated, it's a poor place to start: try either of the two other records mentioned above, and you'll get a sense of the undiluted pure genius that lurks within Ulmer's mind and fingertips.
Track Listing: O Gentle One; As It Is; 99 Names; On And On; Pull On Up To Love; Momentarily; We Got to Get Together; I Can Tell; Home Alone.
Personnel: James Blood Ulmer: guitar, voice; Bill Laswell: bass; Bernie Worrell: keyboards; Jerome Bigfoot Brailey: drums; Amina Claudine Myers: keyboards. Produced by James Blood Ulmer and Bill Laswell.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.