Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 08/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An album that desparately deserves to be put back in print, James "Blood" Ulmer's recording debut, "Tales from Captain Black", finds the guitarist stepping into his own as a leader. With mentor Ornette Coleman blowing alto and Coleman's son Denardo serving as drummer, it would be quite possible that this record would simply be a Coleman record under another man's name, but it's not. Working with bass wizard Jamaaladeen Tacuma, the string players manage to define the voice of the record.
The great addition to the concept of harmolodic music this record really exposes is tight interaction between rhythm section and melody. Tacuma solos underneath all of Ulmer's solos, and often both are soloing underneath Coleman's reedy alto. Underneath it all, Denardo maintains a rhythmic pulse while responding to and frequently quoting the rest of the musicians. This sort of collective improvisation has always been present in the best of Coleman's records, but with such a sympathetic group, it comes out cleanly. The other thing this group does is drag the music a bit further out of the jazz idiom-- it's clear that Ulmer and Tacuma come from a background more seeped in funk and soul jazz, because the blues tinge that infects Coleman's record (not necessarily a bad thing) is far deemphasized on this rcord.
A good example of this is "Nothing to Say"-- Ornette blows a sing-song melody line, Ulmer is seeped in deep South blues, Denardo is freely associating with them, and Tacuma sits in his own universe. But as disjoint as it sounds, the record thrives off this sort of tenuousness and tension.
But this is an album that's quite hard to find-- and at 33 minutes or so in length, its difficult to justify the expensive used market or import prices. Still, its one of the great lost albums in free jazz/funk, and is essential listening for fans of Ulmer or Coleman. Highly recommended."
"Outside" Jazz masterpiece
littlewing | Mumbai India | 06/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album from 1978 marked Ulmers debut and it's startling. He combines angular playing and odd harmodolic theories derived from his mentor Ornette Coleman (who is superb on Alto here!), along with a sound that betrays the influence of Hendrix.
This album is a must own for any fan of alternate/avant garde jazz/rock.
Much of Ulmers early work (though not as powerful as the debut) is great and criminally out of print - available only as bootlegs or through trader networks.
Interested listeners should also check out Odyssey, Free Lancing and Black Rock - these combine strong funk-rock and R&B influences - not unlike their near contemporary Defunkt