Brooklyn, NY -
James Blood Ulmer, the legendary guitarist turned elder statesman of the blues, is currently back in the studio working on a new album for HYENA Records. The as-yet-untitled recording will be built around a cycle of songs Ulmer has written dealing with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, including titles such as Survivors of the Hurricane," Let's Talk About Jesus" and Slave Master." Additionally, there will be interpretations of tunes by Junior Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, Bessie Smith and Son House. In the spirit of the songs' focus, the sessions are taking place at Piety Street Studios in New Orleans, Louisiana. Living Colour and Masque founder / guitarist Vernon Reid is producing the set. This will be Ulmer and Reid's fourth collaboration together. Also on board to support Ulmer is his Memphis Blood Blues Band" featuring Reid on guitar, Charlie Burnham on fiddle, Leon Gruenbaum on keyboards, David Barnes on harmonica, Mark Peterson on bass guitar and Aubrey Dayle on drums. The album is tentatively scheduled for a May 2007 release with US and European tour dates to follow.
The last several years have seen Ulmer fast on the move and gaining renewed popularity around the world. In 2006, he toured frequently with the Memphis Blood Blues Band" in Europe leading to France's prestigious Jazzman of the Year" award. His reunion album with the Odyssey" trio, featuring Charlie Burnham and Warren Benbow, entitled Back In Time on Pi Recordings, recently finished in the top ten of the Village Voice's Critics Poll." His 2005 HYENA album Birthright was his first ever solo effort. Captured alone on voice and guitar, hazy and haunted songs like Take My Music Back To The Church" and Geechee Joe" added a new chapter to the solo blues idiom begun by artists like Robert Johnson, Son House and Leadbelly. The album has quickly become a modern blues cornerstone. It was awarded Blues Album of the Year" in both DownBeat's Readers Poll" and Critics Poll," while receiving a Blues Music Award" (formerly W.C. Handy Award) nomination for Best Acoustic Blues Album" by The Blues Foundation. Subsequently, Ulmer began to receive high profile performance invitations, such as slots with Government Mule, Susan Tedeschi, Hal Willner's Neil Young Tribute Concert and Antoine Fuqua's documentary Lightning In A Bottle, filmed live at Radio City Music Hall and presented by Martin Scorsese. Ulmer and Vernon Reid first hooked up for the Grammy Award-nominated 2001 recording Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions and its 2003 follow-up, No Escape From the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions.
Previously described by Village Voice music critic Greg Tate as: The missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery on one hand, between P-Funk and Mississippi Fred McDowell on the other," James Blood Ulmer has made a career built on left turns and reinvention. Born and raised during segregation in rural South Carolina, Ulmer's earliest musical roots can be traced back to the Baptist church and gospel music of which he was raised. In his early 20s, Ulmer went to Pittsburgh where he first began gigging as a professional musician on the Midwest's chitlin' circuit, virtually living on the road while playing with R&B and organ jazz bands. It was after meeting Ornette Coleman upon moving to New York in the early 1970s that Ulmer truly found his voice. Working steadily alongside his harmolodic mentor in the fabled New York City downtown loft jazz scene, Ulmer's guitar work blossomed into a one-of-a-kind idiosyncratic style that transcended genre. He'd go onto release a string of acclaimed albums that remain classics to this day, including Tales of Captain Black, Freelancing, Black Rock and Odyssey.
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