Born in South Carolina in 1942, electric guitarist James Blood Ulmercut his teeth in funk bands and jazz organ combos, leaning toward jazz. In 1973, Ulmer hooked up with avant-jazz icon Ornette Coleman, who has a singular notion of harmony and melody -- known as harmolodics. After playing in Coleman's groups, Ulmer struck out on his own, combining Coleman's concepts with aspects of funk and rock (Hendrix was another inspiration). Many recordings followed, but in the '90s, Ulmer's interest in envelope-pushing jazz waned, and he was drawn toward the blues. Hooking up with producer/guitarist Vernon Reid, Blood has unleashed some seriously incendiary discs in the '00s, marked by a jolt of audacity that's both punk rock and free jazz. His latest, Birthright,is Ulmer without accompaniment: Leadbelly meets the Space Age, or John Lee Hooker in Interzone. There's no one quite like him.
James Blood Ulmer and Kuato, the tiny mutant who feeds off his brain