James Blood Ulmer: Open House


Open House



Black Rock (PSP)

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James Blood Ulmer (guitar),

Ronald Drayton (rhythm guitar), Grant Calvin Weston, Cornell Rochester (drums)


Composed by James Blood Ulmer


Recorded: New York, 1982


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

The unique (to say the least) guitarist James Blood Ulmer is best known for the time he spent in Ornette Coleman's bands. He cites the saxophonist as a major influence on his own music and style. Most of Ulmer's music is hardly approachable. The fact that the strangely stationary but grooving "Open House" is among his most accessible offerings speaks volumes for his skill and musical integrity. Ulmer does not cater to desires or tastes. His own vision is paramount to his music.

"Open House" is a 5-minute exercise based on an acid-like riff or two. Ulmer makes no attempt to pursue a melodic direction or to vary his tonal or scalar approach to the riffs on display. His remarkable rhythmic picking prowess is on display to the point of disbelief. There is a short expressive section repeated several times that serves as the piece's linchpin. It is catchy, but I would hardly call it the composition's "head." Ulmer and percussionist Calvin Weston show a great affinity as they impressively team up to play the rhythm note for beat. This occurs over and over at high rates of speed. If "Open House" lasted just a minute longer, I would hate it. But it doesn't. I like it a lot. Ulmer is an important part of guitar jazz-fusion history, and while his sometimes perplexing approach has always seemed to find few takers, it does show there is room for subgenre contrarians even in a contrarian genre. You may not always, or ever, dig or understand what Ulmer does, but it cannot be denied that he is a great and underappreciated talent. Imagine being too out there for fusion! That's a guy with balls.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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