James Blood Ulmer

Live at the Caravan of Dreams

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Recorded live at the short-lived Forth Worth, TX, performing arts center housed in a geodesic dome, and released during a slew of recordings by harmolodic artists, this live Blood Ulmer album is one of two he cut with the Odyssey touring band of Charles Burnham on violin, Warren Benbow, and the addition of Amin Ali on bass. Despite having a 24-track studio at their disposal, the folks at Caravan really couldn't make decent live records -- except this one. For whatever reason, Blood's disc came out fine...well...perhaps a tiny bit thin, but it's great in comparison to the Ornette and Ronald Shannon Jackson records issued on the label. Ultimately, though, it's the music that matters, and Blood always performed well with this band. Here, whether he's rehashing "Are You Glad to Be in America" for the 100th time or slipping through the steamy groove of "Cheering" or the greasy ethereal funk of "Church," he's getting though both instrumentally and vocally. The interplay between Blood and Burnham is quite remarkable; both men, being fiery soloists, are here so restrained they create tension in the other direction. Precision and dynamic create the drama on this set and, as it moves from one jam into another, a state of deep black and blue grace is achieved, making this a seductive, smoky, from the depths kind of record. This one is overlooked by critics but the reason why is baffling.