All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

7

James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum

Phillip Woolever By

Sign in to view read count
James Blood Ulmer and The Thing
Bochum Art Museum
Bochum, Germany
April 8, 2018

Improvisational master guitarist Ulmer has played a number of varying, high quality shows around Germany in recent years, solidifying his reputation as a wide-ranging entertainer. Tonight's set was one of his best.

A considerable contribution to the equation came courtesy of The Thing, that highly combustible Nordic noise trio featuring bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and sensational saxophone shaman Mats Gustafsson. The makeshift quartet has collaborated sporadically in recent years, with already powerful chemistry increasing every time they cross paths. The set opened with five minutes of Ulmer's solo musing on his black, hollow bodied Gibson. Thumb-picked primal sludge bubbled until Nilssen-Love's drums erupted into a hypersonic attack, slamming glorious absurdity to a point of bliss.

The gods of music sometimes hear things differently than the rest of us, but tonight everyone was on the same warped wavelength as an initial jam, concluding with snatches of "Baby Talk," ran for almost an hour. Gustafsson and Flaten looked so intense it appeared they'd burst. Ulmer sat stoic and amused, leading the cosmic charge; his reptilian footwear subtly working an effects pedal. He brought his sheet music along, but the thick book remained untouched on the stand. They raged for twenty minutes before Ulmer brought the anti-chord chaos back down in tempo, and subdued application of the bass bow slowed to measure the hall's collective pulse.

Soon, an intensely gesturing Gustafsson seared the ceiling as Ulmer's scattered string work simmered to a boil. Proving method to the madness, numerous well timed breaks or segues demonstrated how well the players anticipate and react to each other. The band's wild explorations found coordinated, if mutated, harmony. It would be interesting to peruse a dissertation on the audience's faces. Remarkably, even commendably, many folks in the older, median-aged assembly nodded their heads as if they were listening to mainstream pop.

The set achieved near greatness at around the fifty-minute mark, and during a cadence of only guitar and drums it was sublime. The last piece of identifiable composition was "Interview," but songwriting definitions didn't matter. By then, everybody's ears and expectations had been properly shredded. A noticeable conversion took place for a beautiful woman in the front row, who seemed to scoff initially and was overheard asking "Is the instrument or the musician the master here?" It was a good but unanswerable query, and whatever conclusion she derived, she cheered louder than anybody when the musicians took their bows after around an hour and a half of truly original artistry.

Extended clapping and hurrahs for an encore came as the entire audience stood in approval for an extended period. The effort was rewarded by another brief journey to the edge, later deemed "all kinds of crazy stuff" by Nilseen-Love backstage. The concert might not have pleased more conservative jazz listeners, but the raucous routine went over quite well in Bochum. Such performances are rare to hear.

The show was part of the revitalized RuhrJazz program, thanks to founder Ulli Blobel.

Music abstractions can be a make or break situation for any audience, depending on intangible chemistry. This afternoon's art museum location was nearly perfect, big enough to accommodate a couple hundred fans while intimate enough for everyone to connect with both the band and the bombast. From the resulting cheers, it seems that connection was unanimously established. This highly functional unit will probably never be an arena act, but that doesn't mean their sound doesn't blow away many other groups that are. Today they were something to marvel at, a fantastic foursome indeed.

Photo credit: Heinrich Brinkmoller-Becker

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe
by Chris May
Published: September 15, 2018
Read 12 Points 2018 Live Reviews
12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 2018
Read "Novara Jazz 2018" Live Reviews Novara Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: June 30, 2018
Read "Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter Apfelbaum at FlynnSpace" Live Reviews Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "Charlie Parr At Higher Ground" Live Reviews Charlie Parr At Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: August 4, 2018