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James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone (12/26/96, p.189) - "...redefined the power-trio concept with drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham. Echoes of Delta blues, bluegrass and Middle Eastern music ring through Ulmer's terse, finger-picked leads and smooth, syncopated strumming..."

New York Times (Publisher) (8/27/96, p.C9) - "...Mr. Ulmer's recorded output has been erratic, but on this stripped-down trio album he got everything right....a fortuitous collision of futuristic and back-home jazz....With its choppy grooves, sudden lurching crescendos and double-stopped modal riffs, it's not exactly blues, but the dye of the blues is there throughout..."

Album Notes

Personnel: James Blood Ulmer (vocals, guitar); Charles Burnham (violin); Warren Benbow (drums).

Recorded at the Power Station, New York, New York from March to May 1983. Includes liner notes by Bill Milkowski.

This relentlessly experimental guitarist's 1983 release is markedly different from the preceding TALES OF CAPTAIN BLACK. While that album exhibited Ulmer's raw guitar tone and wiry, angular phrases (a distinctive approach he had developed in Ornette Coleman's free-funk band, Prime Time) amid exploratory, often chaotic ensemble interplay, ODYSSEY softens his sound somewhat without sacrificing the artist's penchant for adventure.

With the aid of studio effects, the instrumentation of guitar, violin, and drums creates a lush, languid soundscape through which Ulmer's carefully-placed, fragmented lines tumble like gymnasts. His playing references Eastern music, funk, progressive rock, and jazz. Also prominent is Ulmer's connection to traditional blues, as evidenced by such tracks as "Little Red House" and "Please Tell Her," in the latter of which Ulmer's Hendrix-influenced singing comes to the fore. Fans of the guitarist's edgier, more aggressive side will find what they are seeking in the frenetic yet perfectly executed title track. ODYSSEY, though somewhat more accessible than some of Ulmer's work, is no less rigorous or satisfying a musical journey.


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