James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad To Be In America (1980)

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James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad To Be In America (1980)

For many of the open-eared among jazz listeners -- those who had grown up on rock guitarists and heard in Hendrix the vanguard of a fusion, followed Miles Davis through Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, had albums by John McLaughlin and understood jazz-funk -- it seemed as if guitarist-singer James Blood Ulmer was going to deliver them from mediocrity.

His pedigree was impeccable: anointed by Ornette Coleman with whom he played, a fellow traveller with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and saxophonists Oliver Lake and David Murray, a song called Jazz is the Teacher But Funk is the Preacher . . .

Blood Ulmer's staccato style chipping off saxophones but keeping the riffery and melodies to a minimum was as distinctive in its own way as Hendrix had been -- and indeed many saw him as extending the lineage of Jimi into hard-edged jazz.

But despite some exciting albums and a contract with CBS (although his best work was done on John Snyder's Artists House label, where this album title-track comes from) Blood Ulmer never quite made it across into mainstream, or at least widespread acceptance.

The times they were a-changin' and in the Eighties battle lines were being drawn in jazz. 

Hard to believe now, but the album this is taken from arrived just as his later CBS labelmate Wynton Marsalis did.

Guess who won the battle. 

For more one-offs, oddities and songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.

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