Album: Baby Talk

Artist: James Blood Ulmer with The Thing

Label: Trost/The Thing

Release Date: September 15, 2017



A meeting of the minds probably no one expected, Baby Talk chronicles the in-concert collaboration between Scandinavian free jazz trio The Thing and pigeonhole-defying guitarist James Blood Ulmer on a set of the latter’s compositions from throughout his catalog. Saxophonist Mats Gustaffson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love make a formidable unit – not for nothing is one of the band’s albums called Action Jazz – but here the threesome defers to their temporary leader. Rather than whip up a storm of free jazz fury, the group follows Ulmer’s lead, letting a sense of playful whimsy guide the compositions. On “High Yellow,” the guitarist comps in his distinctive free blues style while The Thing bats around his changes like a cat with a mouse. “Baby Talk,” from the catalog of Ulmer’s Music Revelation Ensemble, sets up a constantly shifting foundation over which Gustaffson overlays his legato squeals. Ulmer takes center stage on “Proof,” another MRE track, his clanging guitar duetting with Gustaffson’s baritone sax on a landscape of avant-garde blues. For “Interview,” Flaten and Love get a roiling groove going, setting the stage for some Ulmer/Gustaffson fireworks. Though the music often gets frenetic, at no point might one call any of it aggressive. Baby Talk isn’t about overwhelming listeners with sheer force, but highlighting the fun to be had when everybody agrees to the same non-rules.

DOWNLOAD: “Proof,” “High Yellow,” “Interview”

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