james blood ulmer

James Blood Ulmer’s contributions to the blues, in his short time he’s been gracing it with his artistry, are already irreplaceable.
— David Whiteis, Living Blues
The missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery on one hand, between P-Funk and Mississippi Fred McDowell on the other.
— Greg Tate, Village Voice

Born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Ulmer began his career playing with various soul jazz ensembles. He first recorded with organist Hank Marr in 1964. After moving to New York in 1971, Ulmer played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, Paul Bley,Rashied Ali and Larry Young.

In the early 1970s, Ulmer joined Ornette Coleman; he was the first electric guitarist to record and tour extensively with Coleman. He has credited Coleman as a major influence, and Coleman's strong reliance on electric guitar in his fusion-oriented recordings owes a distinct debt to Ulmer. His appearance on Arthur Blythe's two consecutive Columbia albums. It was described at the time as "avant-gutbucket", leading writer Bill Milkowski to describe the music as "conjuring images of Skip James and Albert Ayler jamming on the Mississippi Delta."

He formed a group called the Music Revelation Ensemble circa 1980, initially co-led with David Murray for the first decade, that lasted into the mid-90s. Later recorded incarnations of the group featured either Arthur Blythe, Sam Rivers, Pharoah Sanders or John Zorn on saxophones. In the 1980s he co-led, with saxophonist George Adams, the Phalanx quartet.

In a 2005 Down Beat interview, Ulmer opined that guitar technique had not advanced since the death of Jimi Hendrix. He stated that technique could advance "if the guitar would stop following the piano," and indicated that he tunes all of his guitar strings to A.

In spring 2011, Ulmer joined saxophone luminary James Carter's organ trio as a special guest along with Nicholas Payton on trumpet for a six-night stand of performances at Blue Note New York.