Friday, June 6, 2008

James Blood Ulmer - Live at the Caravan of Dreams

Nowadays James Blood Ulmer is a sort of elder statesman of the blues, but back in the 70s he was a protege of jazz great Ornette Coleman and a proponent of Coleman's "harmolodics," i.e. everybody play whatever you want at the same time and let the listener sort it out. Which made for some challenging listening! Ulmer's first solo records also had a strong funk underpinning, explicitly addressed in "Jazz Is the Teacher (Funk Is the Preacher)" on his album Are You Glad To Be In America? As for the Caravan of Dreams, I'll quote Wikipedia:

The Caravan of Dreams was a performing arts center located in the central business district of Fort Worth, Texas during the 1980s and 1990s. The venue was best known locally as a live music nightclub, though this only represented one portion of a larger facility. The center also included a multitrack recording studio, a 212 seat theater, two dance studios, and a rooftop garden.[1] The center was located at 312 Houston Street, and prefigured the redevelopment of Sundance Square into a dining and entertainment district. Edward P. Bass, whose family has participated in much of the redevelopment of downtown Fort Worth, financed the project, and Kathelin Hoffman served as its artistic director.[2]

The Caravan of Dreams was self-described as "a meeting place appealing to audiences who enjoy the creation of new forms of music, theater, dance, poetry and film" that was "architected and managed by and for artists."[3] The name was taken from 1001 Arabian Nights, by way of Brion Gysin, who attended the opening of the venue with William S. Burroughs in 1983.[4] The opening celebration centered around performances by Fort Worth native Ornette Coleman, both with his Prime Time ensemble in the nightclub, and with the Fort Worth Symphony at the nearby Convention Center. The event coincided with the mayoral proclamation of September 29, 1983 as "Ornette Coleman Day," when Coleman was presented with a key to the city.[5]

The center operated its own record label, releasing albums by Coleman as well as artists such as Ronald Shannon Jackson, James "Blood" Ulmer, and Twins Seven Seven. Caravan of Dreams also released films (including Ornette: Made in America, a feature-length documentary about Coleman) and spoken word recordings by William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, John P. Allen (as Johnny Dolphin), and others.

The rooftop garden featured hundreds of cacti and succulent plants, as well as a glass geodesic dome. Several years later, Biosphere 2 would incorporate geodesic domes in its structure, with the involvement of some of the same principals behind Caravan of Dreams.[6]

Eventually the facility became less geared toward the experimental (though high-profile) musicians, writers, and artists with whom it was associated in its early days. Caravan of Dreams ceased its production of entertainment media, and the nightclub hosted more mainstream performers outside of the jazz genre.

The nightclub closed in 2001, exactly eighteen years to the day after Ornette Coleman Day, and was converted into a restaurant, Reata at Sundance Square.[7] The theater space continued to be operated as such.

Sounds like a fantastic place, which unfortunately I never got the chance to visit. So, here (or here) is the James Blood Ulmer album referenced above. Released in 1986, it was probably recorded in 1983 or 1984, and includes a good mix of blues and funk numbers. The backing band is Amin Ali on bass, Charles Burnham on violin, and Warren Benbow on drums.


Anonymous said...

YES!! Blood is the shit!
request: 'Playtime' (rough trade) live trio circa '81

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Fantod said...

Anonymous: "Part Time" is on the way; I have it, I just have to find it.

Shader: nice blog! I've added it to my blogroll.

yesIah garvey said...

can't thank you enough!

i had this one when it came out, what a heavenly thing that you've made it available to us - one of the great album covers too

"and Kathelin Hoffman served as its artistic director"

i was always intrigued to know more about kathelin hoffman, even did a web search on her name a few times. i had noticed her credit on keith jarret's recording of the gurdjieff music, and her connection with the COD and mr. bass seems significant.

(hi ms hoffman if you're out there!)