James Blood Ulmer, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A legend returns to his roots

While he would've always been a post-bop guitarist of some regard, James "Blood" Ulmer took his craft further by bringing Ornette Coleman's revolutionary Harmolodic ideas to his instrument, imbuing labyrinthine funk and frenzied rock to his jazz chops. An influence not just on jazzmen like John Zorn and Bill Frisell but post-punks like Public Image, Ltd., Ulmer returned to his roots in the new century with a stop off at Sun Studios for Memphis Blood. Here, with Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid in the producer's chair, Ulmer dives into the muddy Mississippi to play blues like "Dimples" and "Little Red Rooster." Of course, all distinctions melt in Ulmer's hands, the variants — be it gutbucket, barrelhouse, or Chicagoan electric-juke — played sloppy or clean-toned, all have their primordial root dug out by the guitarist.