JAMES BLOOD ULMER — Tales of Captain Black (review)

JAMES BLOOD ULMER — Tales of Captain Black album cover Album · 1979 · Eclectic Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
js
Tales of Captain Black hit the world of jazz-rock fusion in the late 70s like a hot slap in the face. Following on the heels of his mentor Ornette Coleman's release 'Dancing in Your Head', on which Ulmer played guitar, Blood Ulmer continues Ornette's excursions into bizarre avant rock- jazz in a style that was a bold affront to the reigning fuzak of the day. 'Tales' picks up Ornette's rambling Captain Beefheart flavored rural cubist jagged RnB and adds more avant-garde elements, especially in the bizarre rhythms supplied by the uncompromising drummer son of Ornette, Denardo Coleman. Whereas 'Dancing in Your Head' tended to hit a weird groove and stay there, the tunes on 'Tales' often feature multiple part poly-rhythms with each of the four band members seeming to operate independently of each other. Trying to describe this music is tough, along with the aforementioned Don Van Vliet, John French and Ornette Coleman precedents, there is also an influence of avant-garde European concert hall chamber music in the clarity and independence of the individual instrumental lines. Some might also hear a Chris Cutler/Fred Frith influence in some of the rambling improvisations. Although little of this music may resemble Hendrix on the surface, Jimi's presence is felt in Ulmer's raw upfront guitar sound and frequent use of a wah pedal. Keep in mind that in 78-79, when this album came out, working class guitar virtuosos were hard to come by as guitar less Kraftwerk clones and chops-challenged punk rockers ruled the day and wah-wah pedals were neither seen nor heard.

Uncompromising, unconventional and as raw as the NYC streets from which it came, Tales of Captain Black still sounds as fresh today as it did when it first came out when very little else sounded like it. Tough and unpolished, yet sophisticated and intellectual at the same time, this album is a rare work of genius.
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