By: Michael Lepek
In a rare solo performance at the intimate Hyde Park listening room, The Promontory, James "Blood" Ulmer enchanted the audience with a 90 minute set of captivating music.
Born in North Carolina as Willie James Ulmer, his career began in the 1960s, playing soul-infused jazz with progressive jazz legends such as Art Blakey, Larry Young, and avant-garde jazz man Ornette Coleman.
At 79 years old and performing solo with only his Gibson Byrdland guitar and unique baritone vocal styling, Ulmer leads his audience into a unique jazz-infused blues space.
Grabbing liberally from his diverse songbook, he covered BB King's "Rock me Baby" and included an extremely personal song from one of his album collaborations with Living Colour guitarist, Vernon Reid.
“Geechee Joe" was written about his grandfather and appeared to transport Ulmer back to his early days living as a teen in Pittsburgh.
His instrumental songs are accentuated with his subtle deep vocal whisper that is somewhere between a delta bluesman's haunting hum and a Tibetan Monk throat singer that transfixed the audience to hang on to every note throughout the performance.