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James Blood Ulmer, One Of The 'Greatest Guitarists Of All Time,' In Cambridge, MA on November 16, 2023

James Blood Ulmer, One Of The 'Greatest Guitarists Of All Time,' In Cambridge, MA on November 16, 2023

Courtesy Julia Wesely


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James Blood Ulmer is fully aware, theoretically and idiomatically—he’s just never been constrained by those concerns. He is a rock. He is unapologetically himself. He is the blues. Itself. Not its rules.
—Vernon Reid
James Blood Ulmer is among the most distinctive and influential electric guitarists who has made a career built on left turns and reinvention. One of the most expressive guitarists on the planet, Blood is one of the undisputed keepers of the flame for the “harmolodic movement” created by Ornette Coleman. He takes those fundamentals and applies them at will to any genre he pursues, from rootsy Americana, rock, hyper funk, outside electric, Hendrix-inspired cosmic blues. Blood’s music is rooted in the blues. And yet, he flirts with it.

Born in rural South Carolina and raised by God-fearing Baptist parents, Blood was gifted his first guitar at age 4. His early passion for performing music was sparked by gospel, but it did not take long before other sounds and styles were on his radar. The blues especially. For Blood, the blues—the devil’s music— was alternately alluring and frightening. It got him thrown out of the house.

Over time, as a full-time working and touring musician, performing in a variety of styles, he was inspired to also develop his jazz chops, determined that they match his already solid foundation in gospel and R&B. While struggling to develop his own unique jazz voice, Blood’s career took a dramatic turn when he finally moved to NYC and met Ornette Coleman. While Blood kept one foot in straight-ahead jazz to pay the bills, he steadily fell under the influence of Coleman’s harmolodic theory and free music experimentations. Since then, he has continued to channel his long life’s musical experiences and explorations into the vast blues/jazz/funk/country/freeform musical landscape, cementing his reputation as one of the great American music pioneers. James Blood Ulmerwas recently included in Rolling Stone's “The 250 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list (dated: 10/13/2023)

“I’ve made 64 records and none of it’s jazz. It’s all harmolodic as far as I’m concerned.“ —James Blood Ulmer, 2015

Improvising keyboardist Dave Bryant, host of the monthly “Third Thursdays” harmolodic jazz series, is curating his November’s concert to feature the solo performance of special guest James Blood Ulmer, one of Ornette Coleman’s most important early co-conceptualists. The second half of the evening will include a set performed by Bryant along with his fellow Ornette Coleman collaborators Frederick E. Williams (bass) and James Kamal Jones (drums), joined by Neil Leonard (saxophone). The concert will be held at the Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church, 1555 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138. Admission $15/person, available in advance and at the door (cash/check/charge). Concert contact information: [email protected] or 617-447-3030.

About Third Thursdays

The “Third Thursdays with Dave Bryant and Friends” harmolodic jazz series began in April 2022, with the overall goal of showcasing a diverse range of Boston-area musical artists, as well as Dave Bryant’s fellow Ornette Coleman sidemen. A few months ago, it was announced that the funding for “Third Thursdays” monthly series would be extended for another year, starting in April 2023. Dave Bryant is honored that the series has received additional support from the Appalachian Springs Foundation (ASF) in order to continue this 12-month cycle extension.

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