JJ 02/81: James ‘Blood’ Ulmer – Are You Glad To Be In America?

Forty years ago, Mark Gilbert saw Rough Trade embrace the guitarist as an example of a then voguish jazz-punk fusion. First published in Jazz Journal February 1981

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Though condemned by some after a recent visit to Camden Jazz Festival, Ulmer has been embraced by many here, not least by Rough Trade, as a vanguard in a spurious ‘jazz-punk’ fusion.

Unlike Ulmer’s Camden concert, this album shows him capable of variety, from the hints of square dancing rhythm figures and Aylerish folk riffs in Layout through the tight, punctuated unison theme of Interview to the straight funk of Jazz Is The Teacher, or the delta blues flavour of Are You Glad.

Characteristically, the dense rhythm fabric is punctuated by Ulmer’s harmolodic solo style. In­terview provides a perfect example of a favourite figure that almost perfectly mimics the sound of a squawking chicken – an ascen­ding riff ending in an explosive chord. There are penetrating con­tributions also from David Murray and Oliver Lake.

It’s doubtful that ‘Blood’ will be the long term commercial success that Rough Trade might hope for, but it’s good that this music has been recorded and made widely available.

Discography
Layout; Pressure; Interview; Jazz Is The Teacher (Funk Is The Preacher); See-Through — Time Out; T V Blues; Light Eyed; Revelation March; Are You Glad To Be In America?
James ‘Blood’ Ulmer (g); Amin Ali (b); Ronald Shannon Jackson, G. Calvin Weston (d); David Murray (ts); Oliver Lake (as); Olu Dara (t); William Patterson (g) Jazz Is The Teacher only – Jan 1980.
(Rough Trade Rough 16)

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