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Odyssey the Band featuring James "Blood" Ulmer, Charles Burnham, and Warren Benbow Releases "Back in Time" on Pi Recordings

SOURCE: Published: 2006-03-30

The role of the guitar in jazz has not mirrored its role in other modern musics. Few have risen to prominence on the instrument or grown out of the supporting role it has typically played in jazz. Of those who have, one of the most notable is James “Blood" Ulmer. From his first days as Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic guitarist in Prime Time, “Blood's" path to guitar innovator was a rather fast one. In the ten year period between '73, when he began his formal relationship with Harmolodics and Ornette Coleman, to '83 when he recorded what is today recognized as one of the epochal albums of the 80's James “Blood" Ulmer's Odyssey, it can be argued that “Blood's" evolution and impact on the guitar was the logical outgrowth of Hendrix and as just significant. The band on that Odyssey album, “Blood", Charles Burnham and Warren Benbow, have since become known as Odyssey and are recognized today as the quintessential Ulmer band. A return of this band to recording after a seven year lay-off is a cause for celebration and a call to those who may have forgotten to take notice. A return as musically engaging and powerful as this one is a reminder of how startlingly original, innovative and downright forceful James “Blood" Ulmer is as an artist.

Supplementing the role of the bass with his Harmolodic tuning on guitar “Blood" turns out fresh chords which are at once psychadelic, bluesy and an orchestra onto themselves. His interaction with Burnham's violin is a constant front line tug of war. Pulling and pushing each other, Blood and Burnham play off of one and other in a most unique way. The resultant sound is unlike any other front line in music. Playful, joyous, agitated and melodic, they way they weave in and around, first supporting then advancing the other's musical line the listener might easily miss their change of roles. They become ten strings in unison yet independent of one and other. Their sound might be described as an ocean of wah wah rising and then breaking apart. Suddenly though, Charles can play a line that is instantly of the violin and nothing else just to be answered by “Blood" coxing a sound out of the guitar, in a way which only he can or as on “Open Doors", breaking into what might actually be called a rock solo. Under all of this Warren plays a steady beat which inevitably will grow into something akin to a trance. It propels the feeling of the music while providing it with a urgent beat and groove that is relentless when it needs to be and sympathetic when it is called for.

Back In Time moves through the blues “Let's Get Married", African Groove “Last One" and classic Odyssey Band “Red House". The mood of the album can be hopeful as on “Happy Time", funky with a bit of country “Water Time", dreamy to dark on “Love Nest" or just insistent and driving as on “Woman Coming" and “Channel One". Interspersed with vocals from “Blood" the CD marks the celebrated return to the studio of one of music's most beloved trios.


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