Here’s the welcome memento of a live set taped in 2015 at Molde’s Jazz Festival. The names – James Blood Ulmer, Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love – do not need further introduction, we hope.
I vividly recall an expression by one of my darling philosophers – Iron Mike Tyson – during an interview in the final years of a rapidly declining career: “If I hadn’t gotten into trouble and been sent away, you would never have heard of guys like Holyfield and Lewis. I would have gutted them like fish”.
That is exactly the feeling – namely, being “gutted like fish” – that prevails inside the soul of this reviewer when listening to Blood Ulmer’s playing. Notwithstanding an ongoing ability to seduce through a quieter version of his chordal self (check the title track or “Proof” for, er, proof), there’s still a lingering fear that a few instants later one might be slashed by some nasty stuff, remaining scathed and with visible cicatrixes in the process.
The Thing are exemplary counterparts for the guitarist’s harmolodic-scented scowl. Gustafsson’s baritone sax is as always a mix of sinewy firmness and melodic objectivity, punishing blowouts and intuitive contrapuntal complements intertwined with renowned skill. The bass/drum tight bond between Håker Flaten and Nilssen-Love offers several examples of flexible compactness, its ultimate physiognomy that of an engine able to push a vehicle to extreme speed without any risk of consuming too much oil.
Detractors will attack, devotees will rejoice. We all know what’s to be found in a such a record: high-testosterone force not deprived of a degree of sensuality, mainly connected to a contemporary form of (partially) free jazz that, in any case, allows the listener to detect most of its internal plots.
There has to be a reason for my asocial discomposure every time the car stereo randomly spits out a selection from Ulmer’s Tales Of Captain Black (or else). However, do not play Baby Talk while stuck in the urban traffic; if anything, try it as soundtrack for early Tyson fights after having muted the original commentary.