James Blood Ulmer is one of this country's greatest musical assets. Since the early '70s, he's been walking a zig-zag line across jazz, funk, free improv and rock. He cut his jazz teeth with funk bands in Detroit, and then with jazzmen like Joe Henderson and Big John Patton. But it was with Ornette Coleman and his theory of harmolodic improvisation where Blood's sound and style developed its trademark bent.
Blood cut Tales from Captain Black in 1978. It was released on the Artist House imprint and featured Coleman on alto saxophone. (The cover on the right is from the DIW Japanese CD.)
In 1980, his world-renowned critical breakthrough -- and his entrance on the British charts with the title track -- Are You Glad to Be in America was released on Rough Trade (and later, with a different mix, on Artist House in the US).
Blood then signed with Columbia for three albums: 1981's Free Lancing, 1982's Black Rock, and 1984's Odyssey (pictured above). All three were were greeted with wild applause by critics and hipsters who were down with the New York New- and -No Wave sounds. Each of these albums furthered the Blood's radically funked up vision of integrating abstract and accessible musical forms in a raucous, jagged yet danceable gumbo.
Blood has continued to record on his own and with the Odyssey band for a slew of labels all over the globe -- most recently, the late Joel Dorn's Label M and Hyena imprints with producer/guitarist Vernon Reid. The problem is, while DIW in Japan issued Tales from Captain Black, Black Rock, and Are You Glad to Be in America, they are currently out of print; only Odyssey was available (very briefly) on CD in the United States. Therefore, the most seminal part of Blood's radically righteous catalogue is unavailable in his own country. Hey Sony Legacy, get busy!
"Theme from Captain Black"
"Are You Glad to Be in America"
"Jazz Is the Teacher (Funk Is the Preacher)"
"Swing and Things"