James Blood Ulmer Credit: Piotr Drabik

James Blood Ulmer is quite an exceptional musician. As the first guitarist to play with legendary jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the 1970s, he adapted harmolodics, a style of free jazz pioneered by Coleman involving simultaneous improvisations on a single line of melody, to the six strings and came up with an angular style with a surprisingly long-distance reach. Soon he’d stepped out as a bandleader on his own, and in the early 80s his Columbia albums—particularly 1982’s Black Rock—briefly caught on at the outer reaches of the new-wave scene. In the 2000s, he turned to his blues roots, looking back to the start of his career in the 60s on albums such as 2001’s Memphis Blood (recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, where so much classic blues and rockabilly was captured in the 1950s) and 2005’s Birthright. Through the years, his music—depending on the album—may have fit well into the no-wave and blues genres, but it’s always borne the distinctive mark of harmolodics that refused to let his sound fade into the background. Ulmer’s most recent album, last year’s Baby Talk (Trost), was recorded live at the Molde International Jazz Festival in Europe. Backed by a band called the Thing (with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson), he’s heard here in full-on avant-jazz mode, with plenty of space for his guitar to wail.   v