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  Listen Up! 3/12/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Mar. 12

James Blood Ulmer, “Odyssey,” Columbia Records. This one is Ulmer’s classic, the one he can never improve upon. It sounds richer and more perfect with each passing year. Just three instruments. Guitar, drums, and violin. Melody, rhythm, harmony, all switching prominence. I remember my young punk self disliking Ulmer’s vocals when this came out, but now I’m just fine with them. There’s kind of a post-modern Hendrix thing happening on some of these songs, made obvious in song titles like “Little Red House.” You’d think I could be more descriptive, but this record is just so full of life, so constantly changing in emphasis, that I can’t do anything but marvel at its existence.

Duke Ellington, “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2,” Classic Jazz. This budget compilation put out through Charly Records in England back in 1994 is full of great music but no annotation. The first few cuts sound like the soundtrack to the 1929 short subject Ellington made which has been shown a few times on AMC (though that was back before AMC changed its role completely, and may as well have changed its name to American Movie Crap with Commercials). Then comes a bunch of terrific cuts that sound like 30s material to me, but I’m hardly an expert. At any rate, it’s always a pleasure to hear classic Ellington, and this is classic stuff.

--Steve Pick

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