Press Quotes & Reviews
………. The Talk of the Town! ……….
Henry Grimes designated “Musician of the Year” by “All About Jazz”/ New York, Dec., ‘O3; nominated “Jazz Artist of the Year” by “L.A. Weekly,” California, June ‘O3 and June ‘O4; Henry Grimes Trio featuring Andrew Lamb and Newman Taylor Baker designated “Best Jazz Trio of the Year” in ‘O4 by “NYPress” Best of Manhattan issue; Henry Grimes & Ted Curson duo concert June 2, ‘O5 chosen one of the year’s best concerts and Marc Ribot’s Spiritual Unity featuring Henry Grimes chosen one of the year’s best recordings by “All About Jazz” / New York, Best of 2OO5 issue; Henry Grimes’s Spaceship on the Highway Quartet featuring Marshall Allen, Fred Anderson, & Avreeayl Ra named one of the best concerts of ‘O5 by “Time Out / Chicago”; Henry Grimes nominated Bassist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, June, ‘O6; Henry Grimes listed among the top dozen acoustic bassists in the “Downbeat” critics’ poll, ‘O6; the Cecil Taylor Trio with Henry Grimes & Pheeroan akLaff at Iridium (1O/26/O6) named a critic’s choice for one of the 1O best concerts of the year by “All About Jazz” (thanks, Russ Musto!)….
Henry has always been a serious, intense, and fearless musician whose personal life reflected those exceptional qualities. I admire him greatly. — Sonny Rollins, ‘O7
Henry Grimes is among the greatest improvisers living in the world today. His playing is exquisite. — Roscoe Mitchell, Mills College, 2O1O.
Henry Grimes is certainly one of the great bass players now playing. — Prof. George E. Lewis, Columbia University, 2O12.
Henry Grimes’s recorded – and unrecorded – history makes for a legend that would dwarf that of most jazz musicians on the planet. He is the bass player who connects the following list of great albums: Cecil Taylor’s Conquistador, Sonny Rollins’s Brass/Trio, Roy Haynes’s Out Of The Afternoon, Albert Ayler’s Live In Greenwich Village, Don Cherry’s Complete Communion, Gil Evans’s Into The Hot, Sonny Murray’s Sonny’s Time Now, Marzette Watts’s Marzette and Company, and Pharoah Sanders’s Tauhid… There is so much prime new thing-era Impulse music in there that if you cut him open, surely he would bleed orange and black. But lest we forget, he turned up very much alive in a Californian apartment in 2OO2, not having played in 35 years. Indeed, he sold his broken bass in the late 60s to pay the bills. His rehabilitation over the last decade has been one of the most remarkable stories in all of music. New records, including a monumental solo CD, showed that his creative fire was still blazing orange, and the reports I’d heard of his recent live appearances were no cooler in their summation of his current talents. At this Marc Ribot Trio concert at Bishopsgate, it was increasingly the luminous Grimes that I found my eyes and ears drawn to. There was a subtlety to his style which was absolutely fascinating: His solos at times became smears of sound, his bow traced soft lines up and down the strings as much as it did across them. The sheer otherness of sound transformed an otherwise nondescript walking blues track into something entirely alien via a compelling violin solo, which sounded like Grimes had taken the theme from the original and translated into another language and then back again – the same underlying meaning was just about there, but the accents and structure had been completely moved and rearranged. — Scott McMillan, “The Liminal” (London, 2O11).
Guitarist Marc Ribot’s Spiritual Unity trio, featuring bassist/violinist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor, brought down the house at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. Near the beginning of a whirlwind European tour, the trio performed a joyously eclectic selection of numbers that covered a pantheistic array of musical disciplines, from the 196Os love cry of Albert Ayler to the timeless, heartfelt patterns of country music and the untrammeled immediacy of its rather distant cousin, the blues. To a packed sold out hall, resplendent in an academic way, these fine gentlemen not only blew the blues away, they blew the world’s current strife and woe away and replaced them, for a stunning temporal moment, with the absolute possibility of ecstasy and joy. Henry Grimes’s status as a master bassist is undisputed and needs no further qualification at this point in time, a fact which only someone of great ignorance would dispute. Ribot is a powerhouse of dynamic range, demonstrating a thorough understanding and execution of the entire canon. Taylor has advanced massively in recent years. Grimes was profound, spirited, selfless, and eternally youthful. — Daniel Graham, “All About Jazz” (2O11).
… As for Henry Grimes, who played and recorded with Albert Ayler, he was at the centre of everything the Marc Ribot Trio did. The simpatico Grimes (and it’s not unfair to Ribot) carried the gig, presiding over every shift, subtle, obvious, rhythmic, conceptual, or otherwise. Mobile, fast, impressive ideas worn big and to fit, the years melted away, and a music was reborn without sounding dated at all. — Stephen Graham, “Jazzwise” Magazine (London, 2O11).
The return of Henry Grimes was remarkable because so many musicians fall by the wayside and are never heard from again. The world needs these musicians. Yes, the world needs every good creative spirit to make his or her contribution immediately. The rest is history: friends, students, a bass, practice. Henry Grimes returns, proceeds to jump back into this river of music, he is splashing in it, rolling in the flow of sound, with a joy that is now! not yesterday. The cry is I’m happy to be alive and I love music and I want to play as much as I can. — William Parker
Henry has unbelievable ears and what he plays will always relate to what’s going on in some completely unpredictable and beautiful way. It’s tempting to write off the density of his playing as just him going off the deep end, but when you listen to it, you hear the melody of the tune you’re playing sped up, counterpointed, harmonized, attacked, distorted, played backwards. He’s really a Cecil Taylor of the bass. And he has his own version of playing grooves related to some strain of sixties funky jazz that we think we remember, but we don’t. When I play with Henry, it’s as if I’d only seen synthetic fabrics my whole life, and I’m confronted with a hand-knitted wool sweater with all its oddities and imperfections–different, yet infinitely warmer. He’s the living embodiment of the difference between groove and metronomic time, which we were all taught were the same thing, right? Wrong. — Marc Ribot, from an article at allaboutjazz.com
Marc Ribot was onstage at the Abrons Arts Center in duet with bassist and violinist Henry Grimes during the 16th annual Vision Festival, this country’s essential gathering of avant-garde improvising musicians. The two found communion of the freest and highest order, and they extended a thrilling story of musical revival that began with Grimes’s resurfacing at Vision’s 2OO3 edition, after decades off the scene. — Larry Blumenfeld, “The Village Voice,” 2O11.
A featured performer, and phenom, at the Guelph Jazz Festival [of Sept., 2O1O] was Henry Grimes, who almost inevitably becomes the center of attention when he plays, partly because of his remarkable rebirth story. Grimes, who spent three-plus decades away from music — hiding out in plain sight in Los Angeles — has become the comeback story of the decade in the last few years, and the veteran of early free jazz, a former collaborator with Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and many others, really has come back, playing with wisdom and fire and ensemble sensitivity in multiple settings… He looks cool and imperturbable, bedecked in his own school of cool fashion, but summons up a powerful sound and expressive sweep. In this case, Grimes was the centerpiece of two very different, but equally uncharted, trios. Late on Friday night, he played with fellow free avatar Andrew Cyrille on drums and the relative youngster Jane Bunnett, the Toronto-based reed player who acquitted herself beautifully and flexibly in this setting. For the first half of the extended 1OO-minute set, Grimes played with density and unrelenting ferocity, as if making up for the lost time of his wilderness years in L.A. But deep into the set, Grimes became more musical, showing more of a feel for dynamic variation, celebrated spaces, and conversational poise amidst his urging intensity. On Sunday morning, wrapping up the festival in a splendid sonic way, Grimes offered the foundation and the historical authenticity in a project led by guitarist Marc Ribot… — Josef Woodard, “JazzTimes”
Before bassist Henry Grimes’ triumphant return to music in 2OO2 after a 35-year absence, his only recording as a leader was “The Call” in 1965. “Sublime Communication II: Live at Edgefest,” recorded last October (‘O5) on the closing night of that Ann Arbor festival, demonstrates that Grimes is playing better than he ever has before. Such drastic improvements over the last three years must certainly stem, in large part, from musically nurturing associations like this one. The CD features veterans Andrew Lamb on reeds and Newman Taylor Baker in the drum chair. Excellence was a foregone conclusion, but it’s stunning to hear the collective vision nonetheless, helmed with skill and fire by an obviously jubilant Grimes. From note one, the disc crackles with an almost unbearable energy as Sir Henry roars in with speed, power and precision; he’s almost “shredding,” so to speak, combining the effortless tonal range of a Derek Bailey with the visceralgia and wide timbral pallet of Sonny Sharrock. His bandmates are no less impressive and, thankfully, completely sensitive to Grimes’ vigorous new approach. Baker knows when to lay back, supporting the leader’s exhortations with the most graceful slithers, brush strokes and sizzles. When Lamb finally enters, breathing a slowly repeated F on his saxophone, it’s with a most exalted restraint. That doesn’t last, of course, and before long he’s exploring a Japanese scale as Grimes and Baker emote alongside and underneath and intensity builds to fever pitch. And that’s only the first 1O minutes or so of a 35-minute improvisation. The disc’s second session is more wistful and pensive, shrouding the celebration just below the surface. When Lamb’s supple flute is eventually joined by Grimes and Baker, any sobriety is quelled by the joy of spontaneity. Grimes patiently provides a rhythmic backdrop for Lamb’s razor-sharp explorations — that is, until it is time for another Grimes solo (it is his album, after all). The disc is full of such interplay, and why one of the jazz labels busy reissuing back catalog hasn’t snapped this up is beyond me. — Marc Medwin, “Dusted”
If only for the Ann Arbor debut of the legendary and recently rediscovered bassist Henry Grimes, the closing night of Edgefest [Oct., 'O5] would be deemed an overwhelming success. As if making up for the lost decades, Grimes, rarely playing at less than an eighth-note pace, gently prodded reedman Andrew Lamb and drummer Newman Taylor Baker through a handful of insistent yet meditative suites that found plenty of room for all three players to shine. That the trio rarely rose above a whisper didn’t take away from its intensity; rather, with Grimes furnishing mantra-like foundations both with his fingers and a bow, Baker and Lamb were able to overlay their own invocations, creating an almost chamber-music-like vibe in the intimate venue. Lamb, who switched between tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute, was a worthy melodic foil for Grimes’ churning rhythms, while Baker, tastefully restrained, relied on nuance and color in order not to overshadow the leader. Grimes clearly was totally assured with his instrument at his command, rewarding an adoring house that had waited far too long to bask in the virtuosity of one of jazz’s truly legendary figures. — Will Stewart, “Ann Arbor News”
I’m at the first night of the 1Oth Vision Festival (‘O5), New York’s most forward-looking jazz event… Henry Grimes’s quartet features Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen with the science fiction-like electronic glissandi of his EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). Grimes sculpts tones from his bass with a sense of time that continually subdivides the pulse into tributaries of counter-comments. As the energy of the performance reaches a natural cadence, Grimes pulls a funky riff from the air that relights fire-crackers under the band. And with his final solo, Grimes’s fingers scurry down the fingerboard in some seemingly abstractly choreographed pattern, except that the musical sense of what he plays communicates instantly. — Maggie Williams, Editor, “Double Bassist”
Henry Grimes’ huge sound and inventiveness are the qualities that made him a bass player sought after by both avant-garde and mainstream musicians–not that these distinctions make any difference for such a deep musician. — Francesco Martinelli, jazz journalist and scholar
Henry Grimes took charge of terra firma, shaking the floorboards with booming notes that segued stealthily from jocular to foreboding — a sort of four-stringed analogue to James Earl Jones on a wild oratorical ride. Grimes draws heavily from the blues, but doesn’t bore his audience with simple retellings of the genre’s stock stories. He stains them with his own blood, sweat and tears, making his canvases among the music’s most poignant and exhilarating. — David Sprague, “Variety”
A night of outstanding music [at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City] began with the Henry Grimes Quartet. His beautiful green bass caught my eye from the moment I walked in. His playing caught my ear from the moment he picked it up until he stopped playing. The quartet started out the set with more experimental compositions and moved to less dissonant material, closing with the familiar Sonny Rollins set finale “Oleo.” More often than not, sets of music usually flow in the opposite direction, becoming more experimental as the night goes on. This presentation put the music in a different context. One selection had a gorgeous melody and featured a wonderful solo by clarinetist Perry Robinson. The quartet was rounded out by Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet and soprano saxophones and Andrew Cyrille on drums, both great soloists in their own right. Someone with such rare artistry as Henry Grimes should be seen live as often as possible. — Bryan Zoran, jazzreview.com
The revered bassist has been dialing up all kinds of partners since he returned from the abyss last year. There’s an ardor to his playing that feeds the spirit of his work…. — Jim Macnie, “The Village Voice,” “Voice Choices” short list
Fully rejuvenated by his year back in the performance spotlight, Henry Grimes, together with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Andrew Cyrille, delved into inner mysteries and dark concepts on his emotional and inspired set. — Frank Rubolino photo caption from the Vision Festival ‘O4, “All About Jazz”
Bassist Henry Grimes’s amazing return to the music scene was easily the jazz human-interest story of 2OO3. The buzz about his Rip van Winkle-like reappearance at the Vision Festival, after some 33 years away from music, was eclipsed only by the fact that his playing showed few signs of rust; the fest took place in May (‘O3), and Grimes was leading his own band at Iridium by early July. His skill — hardly unfathomable for a musician whose resume includes recordings and gigs with people like Mose Allison, Albert Ayler, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Cecil Taylor — puts the lie to the old saw, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Grimes’s story this year, however, is different. It’s not just about how eager he is to return to the top of the jazz world; it’s about how quickly the word’s getting out that he’s up to the challenge…. — Kelvin Leander Williams, “Time Out New York,” “Top Live Shows”
Grimes’ bass playing is supple yet can go into mutiple directions at once, in constant variations in tone and rythym. He was the backbone of the 6O’s free-jazz avant-garde movement; he returns now when there is a rebirth in this musical legacy. This is an opportunity to see a true hero. — Sounds for the People festival Web site, Montreal
If you haven’t heard the fantastic news about HENRY GRIMES’ return to the jazz world, I don’t know what stone you’ve been sleeping under! He’s been the talk of the town, and I don’t just mean New York or Los Angeles, but the jazz community at large has been celebrating his recent rediscovery from not even having played for a good three decades. After a few fairly recent gigs out West, he made his triumphant return to NYC at this year’s Vision Festival and showed us all that he is back, and boy is he ever! His arco and pizzicato playing is like a resurrection for bass players the world over…. Welcome back, Mr. Grimes! — Laurence Donohue-Greene, Managing Editor, “All About Jazz”/ New York
The most inspiring story of this year was the re-emergence of bassist Henry Grimes. He was once in demand after having played with everyone from Benny Goodman to Albert Ayler. After more than 3O years of being “disappeared,” Grimes made it back into the world, and the jazz world, thanks to the [initial] help of a diligent jazz fan/social worker, Marshall Marrotte [and many others since then]. Grimes is once again active in music…. a remarkable comeback, both musically and emotionally. Too often the jazz life offers more victims than survivors, and Henry Grimes’ life is a rare story of the latter. — “JazzTimes” industry survey
BEST JAZZ TRIO: THE HENRY GRIMES TRIO WITH ANDREW LAMB AND NEWMAN TAYLOR BAKER Henry Grimes plays the bass with absolute control, spinning tales without words, enriching the room with the depth of his bass. Newman Taylor Baker can capture any rhythm and will surprise you two or three times each show with how far he can take percussion. And Andrew Lamb works his saxophone and flute, paying close attention to the silence between the sounds, layering. They played at the Vision Festival Concert Series, and most recently at Zebulon in Williamsburg. When you see this collaboration [listed] … stop what you’re doing. — Steven Psyllos, “NYPress,” “Best of Manhattan” issue
Henry Grimes is a very special gift to this scene. He plays with so much dedication and gentleness in his music. The group with Andrew Lamb and Newman Taylor-Baker under Henry Grimes’ leadership is filled with freedom and zest and enthusiasm and great music. You really can hear the special voice of each musician. They give each other all the space and yet all the fullness of sound. It is wonderful to hear. — Patricia Nicholson Parker, producer, Vision Club Series & Vision Festival
Henry Grimes at the Vision Fest and his first NYC club appearance in 3O years at the Iridium in July: The big jazz story of 2OO3 had to be the rediscovery of legendary bassist Henry Grimes, who was living in a SRO in LA since his disappearance from the scene nearly 3O years ago. Question was could he still play. You could hear a pin drop when Henry took his first extended solo during the Jeanne Lee Memorial Concert at the Vision Fest last June. Just amazing. The man still had it, like he never stopped playing. That appearance led to his first NYC club appearance at the Iridium in July with Roy Campbell, Jr., trumpet, Rob Brown, alto saxophone; Andrew Bemkey, piano, and Michael Thompson, drums. Welcome back, Henry! — Jim Eigo’s “Top 1O for 2OO3,” Jazz Promo Service
…. The great surprise was the re-emergence of Henry Grimes, a bass player who vanished from the scene in the late 1960s — after working with leaders including Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Miles Davis, Albert Ayler, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins. He was reported to have died in 1984. But last fall, Marshall Marrotte, a jazz fan and social worker from Georgia, found Grimes living in a single-room occupancy hotel in downtown Los Angeles. He’d been living there for some 20 years, doing odd jobs and surviving on Social Security. He’d sold his bass years ago to make ends meet. When word got out that he was indeed alive and wanted to get back into music, New York avant-garde bassist William Parker had one of his own basses repaired and shipped to Grimes, who resumed practicing and soon began performing in the Los Angeles area. As a support network developed, Grimes returned to the New York jazz scene May 26 with a special appearance at the Vision Festival. He’s been performing with increased frequency…. — Ken Frankling, “2OO3: The Year in Jazz,” United Press International
Henry Grimes’s playing, technique, and sense of style are brilliant… supple and resolute. — Jukka Haaru reviewing the Henry Grimes Trio concert at Kerava, Finland for “Helsingen Sanomat,” Finland’s major print publication
Thanks to Henry and Perry and Andrew for the joy and emotions you gave us. We are proud for the opportunity you gave us to host such superb and affirmative musicianship. Henry Grimes’ music is mysteriously profound, and we were astounded by the deep, dark expressive power that hit us from his bass. And we feel grateful also to the ever searching musicianship of Perry Robinson and the phenomenal skills of Andrew Cyrille. We were witnesses to a sound sculpture coming to birth. — Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto, Artistic Director, “Aperitivo in Concerto” Festival, Teatro Manzoni, Milan
Henry Grimes, who went from Sonny Rollins to Cecil Taylor to an absence of many decades, showed at the Vision Festival that he’s lost none of the verve and technique that established him as one of the key bassists of the late ’5Os and ’6Os. — Gary Giddins, “The Village Voice” Short List
His recent return and yeoman schedule, after a 37-year sabbatical, have shown that the great bassist with the encyclopedic résumé (from Willis Jackson and Benny Goodman to Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler and many more) has retained not only his technique—the rock-solid pitch, magisterial tone and harmonic ingenuity—but also his indefatigable staying power. — Gary Giddins, “JazzTimes”
Grimes returned to a New York stage for the first time at the Vision Festival in May, ‘O3, but it was at Iridium, during a three-night double bill with David S. Ware’s quintet [July, 'O3], that he was able to play for an extended period and present himself to an eager public. Joining the enigmatic bassist were Rob Brown on alto, Roy Campbell on trumpet, Andrew Bemkey on piano, and Michael Thompson on drums. Grimes was in excellent form on bass – rough around the edges, to be sure, but with a full, round tone and a very clear sense of musical direction. The music was free yet extraordinarily sensitive, with clearly delineated solo rotations and perfectly intuited peaks and valleys. This was a quintet without a weak link. — David Adler, “All About Jazz”/New York
Grimes, cheek bent to bass neck, seemed to be in another world, but his fingers were right there, darting elegantly among the vines and thickets, or bowing deep, resiny foundations, just as they were with Ayler and Taylor and Rollins and Shepp. — Greg Burk, “Los Angeles Times”
Henry Grimes at World Stage, March 21: The great avant-garde bassist poked his head out of 3O-year obscurity and brought 1965 back, just like that. Now he’s split for New York to recapture the torch. Blessings be upon him. — Greg Burk, “L.A. Weekly,” “The List 2OO3″
Grimes, whose supple, borderless, yet precise contrabass work was featured on many landmark ’6O’s recordings by the likes of Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and Sonny Rollins, dropped out of music 3O years ago and was recently rediscovered living in Los Angeles. Lured back to the bass, he surfaced in March for the first of only a few shows. It was immediately clear that he had lost nothing… All you can say is “wow.” — Greg Burk, “L.A. Weekly”
Grimes’ disappearance from jazz in the late ’60s and subsequent rediscovery late last year by jazz fan Marshall Marrotte have been well documented. But the question that remained was whether Grimes could regain his extraordinary skills more than three decades after he stopped playing. On Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery, in one of the several performances he has been giving around the Southland over the past few months, the answer was a definite yes. Performing in a free-floating jazz setting… Grimes offered a focused sound and fluid articulation that were the rallying point for a set of improvisations that might otherwise have lost their way. — Don Heckman, “Los Angeles Times”
On a double bill with the David S. Ware quartet, Grimes answered some obvious questions without ever speaking into the microphone. His fingers moved fluidly about the bridge of the bass (a loaner from a string studio in Soho). His rapport with the musicians — trumpeter Roy Campbell, saxophonist Rob Brown, pianist Andrew Bemkey, and drummer Michael Thompson — was confident as the band charted a course through some decidedly flexible musical space. His sound full and distinctive, Grimes reappears at a moment when the musical ideals of the free-jazz movement seem of renewed relevance. “Something happened,” Grimes told me after the gig…. “Everything that I’ve strived for came true, with bigger implications for the future.” — Larry Blumenfeld, “The Village Voice”
The last three years must seem to Henry Grimes as the busiest period in his career, almost equal to his prolific output in the 196Os, when he contributed to such epochal albums of the avant-garde as “Spirits Rejoice” (Albert Ayler), “Unit Structures” and “Conquistador” (Cecil Taylor), and “Complete Communion” (Don Cherry). On November 1O, Grimes performed in the 2OO6 London Jazz Festival with guitarist Marc Ribot’s group Spiritual Unity, alongside Roy Campbell on trumpet and Chad Taylor on drums… The band performed with the kind of focused energy you’d expect from a group of musicians paying tribute to an influential trailblazer like Ayler. Grimes was superb throughout, demonstrating the same commanding technique and large, authoritative tone that dominated his recorded work of the 196Os… Later that night, Grimes, Chad Taylor and Roy Campbell were joined onstage at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho by none other than British Jazz Godfather Evan Parker for a brief 1O-minute performance being recorded for the BBC. Parker played tenor with the group, and the result, despite the fact that this was the first time these four men had played together, was tantalizingly magical, pure gold, an experience that was over so quickly, but one that will linger for a long time to come. A brief conversation with Henry Grimes after the late-night gig revealed his feelings about working with musicians such as Cecil Taylor: that Taylor’s standard of musicianship is so high that playing with him automatically lifted your own performance, and, as a consequence, that of the entire group. Henry Grimes himself is now that man who inspires greatness by example. — Daniel Graham, “All About Jazz”
It was beautiful. His playing had a strongly implied swing, but one that seemed to go in multiple directions at once. It was extremely supple, with constant variations of tone and rhythm. He was also able to imply multiple melodies without droning or limiting the melodic trajectory of his playing. It sounded inquisitive, curious. He was simultaneously supporting, adding new information and invigorating the overall sound field, and not one of these multiple dynamics was dropped for very long. It’s as though he was utilizing a system of musical multitasking, the sound of simultaneous human modes – social, mental, emotional, physical…. — Drew Gardner, drewgardner.blogspot.com
One of the first things Mr. Marrotte did when he found Mr. Grimes was to reintroduce him to his music. “I was amazed,” Mr. Grimes recalled, “because I listened to some CD’s of some of the Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler things, and some of my music. At the time, I didn’t pay that much attention to them. But when I listened to them again, it was amazing what I heard. There was more to it than I ever realized.” Despite his lost years, Mr. Grimes said he had no regrets: “I’m working on straightening things out now. But I’m back for good.” — Neil Strauss, “The New York Times”
His comeback became one of the great jazz stories of 2003, an unlikely case of a missing figure suddenly re-emerging on the jazz scene after a 35-year “vacation.” — Scott Yanow, allmusic.com.
… Immediately apparent: his refined focus, with virtually no extraneous body movement whatsoever…. Midway through, the group settled into a dirge-like interval, allowing The Legend to play around with march-like cadences, often surprising us with pregnant space and rhythmic ingenuity: a lesson in beauty from simplicity. Then the vibe changed. Henry faced us and started a medium-hard groove in 4, solo — statuesque, yet perspiring athletically, channeling music through his spirit… Henry Grimes — defining swing before our eyes, his hands gently, smoothly working in concert. What beautifully relaxed, soft hands. Nothing forced, fudged, or groped. He’s Back. The new Henry Grimes, a courageous work in rediscovery. Unforgettable. — David Jeffrey, David.Jeffrey@mitchell.com.
I am so happy to hear that Henry is playing again. He is one of the great individualists, and his absence left a space that nobody else could fill. I welcome his return to the music community and all that it will mean to us. I send love and respect to him. — Dave Holland, via Email 5/28/O3.
REVIEWS — RECORDINGS
HENRY GRIMES SOLO, January 2009, double CD set on ILK Music (#151 CD), ilkmusic.com #151 CD.
Here’s a review from Bruce Lee Gallanter of Downtown Music Gallery: Since moving back to New York in July of 2OO3, after a disappearance of some thirty years, master bassist Henry Grimes continues to astound us all with his leaps and strides. Since his grand return, he has jumped into the fire and played with other giants like Cecil Taylor, David Murray, Rashied Ali, Marshall Allen, Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Bill Dixon and so many others. This fabulous two-disc set features an entire unedited and uninterrupted solo bass and violin performance. Henry takes his time and works his way through many layers and textures of plucked and bowed double bass and violin, digging deep into his most creative world of sounds. One would think that it is difficult to sustain interest throughout a long solo bass performance, but not here. This disc is superbly recorded and Henry’s bass sounds warm, strong and life-affirming. I turned this disc up while listening to it at home and in the store and let it wash over me like layers of warm molasses. It sounds and feels so good to me and no doubt will work its magic over you.
And writes professor and music journalist Marc Medwin of American University in Washington, D.C: I just love to try to follow Henry’s mind as it jumps, whirls, whirls back, jumps again, wraps around an idea, holds on for a moment or two, or longer, parenthesizes, contrasts, goes contrapuntal, and then off again … Thanks to Henry for this music!!!!
Marc Medwin also wrote this review for “Dusted” Magazine: Finally, here is a beautifully recorded two-disc document capturing the phenomenal improviser Henry Grimes in full flight. Ilk Music offers up two-and-a-half hours of solo Grimes, on both bass and violin, in some of the free-est music he’s committed to disc… Bill Dixon defines a soloist as ‘the smallest orchestra possible’, and nothing could encapsulate Grimes’ polyphonies more accurately. The entire pitch spectrum becomes his plaything as he glides effortlessly through dense overtonal and microtonal labyrinths of his own creation, switching between arco and pizzicato, each reinforcing the other with pithy motivic fragments. At key moments in these rich notestreams, Grimes introduces modal repose. He may discover a rhythmic or melodic pattern, then transpose, repeat, possibly augment. The tempo, relative as it is in late Coltrane, slows considerably, and there is often a drone as Grimes weaves melodies above or below it. Much of the intrigue of his playing comes from the emergence of these movements in his mind. So unpredictable is each motivic and timbral transformation that when Grimes trades bass for violin, you’d never guess that a half-hour has already passed. His first violin excursion is quite brief, lasting only a few minutes, followed by a breathtaking display of pizzicato melodic invention on bass, reminiscent of Charlie Haden’s pioneering improvisations with Ornette Coleman… [Mr.] Grimes is singularly inventive here, ideas flowing more smoothly and with the utmost variety of tempo and harmonic implication. On violin, he rarely employs pizzicato, preferring bowed runs, leaps, and falling cascades of double stops. Amidst these, we are treated to drone-based passages where he’ll let one string ring as he interjects the others with counterpoint. One memorable moment finds him in uhr-blues mode as he caresses a swinging old-timey riff, conjuring his own past. He takes off only to return a minute later, coaxing new life from the dance-like rhythms … All the vigor and beauty one performer can offer.
Mitch Myers wrote this review for “JazzTimes”: Since 2OO3, ’6Os free-jazz bassist Henry Grimes has experienced a resurgence on the performance scene that has been touching and inspiring. His new two-CD set of solo improvisations emphasizes that remarkable comeback, which can now be considered complete. With more than two and a half hours of fairly continuous playing, Solo is a dramatic tour de force. Alternating between long passages on the bass and violin, Grimes plucks and bows with great clarity and imagination, and a seemingly endless supply of bold musical ideas. Clearly, Grimes is the medicine man in residence, playing bass equal to any of his ’6Os contemporaries and evoking fond memories of the late Leroy Jenkins on the fiddle. It’s the fearless confidence Grimes exudes on bass that is most impressive, and his stream-of-consciousness solo work puts him right up there in the pantheon of rare improvisers like his old boss Cecil Taylor. Grimes’ technical mastery is sometimes overshadowed by his amazing creativity, but his organic skill with string-driven-things should serve as a clinic for devotees. There’s a lot of music to digest here and it would be difficult to absorb the entire collection in one sitting, but a brilliant thread of continuity runs through the performances and the end result is never contrived… his unencumbered process shows him gaining in all ways at the age of 7O, and he’s a true model of self-realization through music.
Giuseppe Segala from “All About Jazz” / Italia: On the surface of Grimes’s album is a monologue with a narrative pace: the powerful sound, round and sharp, richness of rhythm with bowing variations, with a consciousness of the flow of the piece, where the rhythmic aspect and overtones speak loudly to the listener. A swinging passage stretches in and leads us on through an irregular rhapsodic journey. Pieces of familiar melodies emerge and quickly draw us into a whirlwind of a fantastic history. Grimes masterfully controls the sound, exploring the harmonies with the wisdom of a master painter who suffuses whitewashes with tones. He enfolds the melodic designs with infinite variations of tact and sensibility. Yet the sense of drama of the narrative is always alive. In instances, he takes up the violin, an instrument he had studied as a child, and darting through the piece are arrows of sweet brightness.
And this from Mark Urness for “Bass World,” the publication of the International Society of Bassists: “Solo” is a 2&1/2-hour improvisatory tour de force by Henry Grimes. In this remarkable two-disc set, we hear up close and in thrilling detail the variety and depth of timbres Henry creates on the bass and violin. It is relentlessly energetic and all-inclusive. Grimes consistently surprises with lightning-quick changes of material. The music is at turns disjunct and conjunct, atonal and diatonic, non-pitched and melodic, arhythmic and grooving; it is a study in variety and timbral / rhythmic / melodic opportunity. Congratulations to Henry Grimes for this fascinating and deeply moving recording. We look forward to hearing many more.
PROFOUND SOUND TRIO: Opus de Life, Andrew Cyrille (drums), Paul Dunmall (tenor saxophone, bagpipes), and Henry Grimes (acoustic bass and violin), released June 2009, Porter Records (PRCD-4O32).
Wrote Derek Briggs, reporting from the ‘O9 Cheltenham Jazz Festival: What’s free jazz? At its worst, it produced gut-wrenching noise, at its rare best, massively memorable music, advancing improvisational and rhythmic skills to new heights. And the Profound Sound Trio is the best, with U.S. originators bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Andrew Cyrille, and younger — but still a free veteran –- UK saxist Paul Dunmall. Grimes kicked off with an intriguing extended solo bowing. Dunmall developed a classic blues phrase into something phenomenal. Cyrille watched silently, like an extinct volcano, but then erupted into a silver shimmer of cymbals and driving drum lines. Forget about tunes: The trio in full flight was awesome, pure telepathic improvisation. Free jazz is back. All it needed was the virtuosity these players displayed in solo spots. Images linger: Grimes’ mystical harmonics on violin, Dunmall’s release to churning late-Coltrane exploration, Cyrille’s transformation of a march beat into a drum symphony.
And Ed Hazell in the Fall ‘O9 issue (#55) of “Signal to Noise”: This is the kind of set free improvisers and their fans always hope for and rarely get. One expects music full of energy, subtlety, and exploration from saxophonist Paul Dunmall, bassist Henry Grimes, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, the players who make up the Profound Sound Trio; it’s the kind of music they routinely make. But something happened on this stifling hot night at last year’s Vision Festival that lifted all three of these men at the same time to the peak of their capabilities. This hour’s worth of music simply overflows with life and passion, bursts explosively open into one sonically amazing area after another, but never loses its focus along its twisting pathways. In its effortless grace, musicality, wit, boundless ideas, and swing, Cyrille’s performance is extraordinary in every way. His snare and bass drum manage to sound like both a talking drum and Kenny Clarke; his conversational approach to rhythms (swinging but not necessarily anchored to a stated beat) and nuanced cymbal work are always perfectly attuned to what’s going on in the music. Grimes sounds totally alert and engaged on both bass and violin. He plucks out his lowest notes to form a troubled bed for the music, with an urgency that keeps the music moving without pushing it aggressively. His bowed work is celestial, yearning, beautiful, and also fueled by a forward momentum that keeps Cyrille and Dunmall at a boil. This is one of his best post-comeback recordings. And Dunmall is a tenor gladiator, strong, cathartic, and detailed in his improvising. His phrases build up ridiculous momentum and tension, and then disintegrate into wails and rasps. He spirals upward into his altissimo register in response to Grimes’ violin and lodges himself deep in Cyrille’s rhythmic abstractions. It’s a performance in which they just keep challenging one another, and the challenge is met every time. — Ed Hazell.
John Sharpe, “All About Jazz,” August, ‘O8: Having shared recent dates in England with lost but now found bassist Henry Grimes, British saxophone colossus Paul Dunmall returned the compliment here, with masterful drummer Andrew Cyrille, in one of the Vision Festival’s highlights. Over the years Dunmall has forged and tested his muscular playing in almost every conceivable situation, such that he dealt authoritatively with whatever he faced, evidenced by one dazzling passage which saw Grimes’ abstract violin playing instantly echoed back at him by Dunmall’s tenor. As a trio they were incredibly responsive, and their attention to detail ensured that their free-form outing took on the structural coherence that sets the great apart from the merely good.
Peter Bacon, “The Jazz Breakfast,” May, ‘O9: This music not only has the elemental sound of human beings, the blood pumping, the synapses snapping, but it has that astronomical scope too, the crackle, shudder of space. All three make sounds that contain multiple layers of timbre, tone and overtone, which on the surface might sometimes feel like chaos, but if it is chaos, it contains all manner of truths and beauties. … Together they make a fiercely original and extraordinarily powerful music that gets to the very molten core of free jazz.
Derek Briggs, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, “Crackerjack”: What’s free jazz? At its worst, it produces gut-wrenching noise, at its rare best, massively memorable music, advancing improvisational and rhythmic skills to new heights. And the Profound Sound Trio is the best, with U.S. originators bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Andrew Cyrille, and younger — but still a free veteran — U.K. saxist Paul Dunmall. Grimes kicked off with an intriguing extended solo bowing. Dunmall developed a classic blues phrase into something phenomenal. Cyrille watched silently, like an extinct volcano, but then erupted into a silver shimmer of cymbals and driving drum lines. Forget about tunes: The trio in full flight was awesome, pure telepathic improvisation. Free jazz is back…
Glenn Astarita, “EJazz News”: Henry Grimes and drummer Andrew Cyrille bring their legendary wares to the proverbial table, in concert with powerhouse tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall. Sparks were flying during the concert amid Dunmall’s colossal sound and pressure-cooker-like element, where the trio tackles the free zone with a vengeance. Grimes’ authoritative single-note lines and Cyrille’s inventive polyrhythmic fury offer Dunmall an unrestricted yet fertile launching pad, contrasted by the artists’ open-ended dialogues. The tenor saxophonist sojourns into tension-and-release statements while injecting melodic hooks into the grand scheme of matters. It’s improvisation that makes near-perfect sense, an element that should come as no surprise, given the respective musicians’ credentials and enviable feats within these expansive frameworks. The trio stimulates your neural network with a myriad of highs, lows, and climactic opuses. Cyrille’s whirlwind-style undercurrents help generate a vast plane along with Grimes’ buoyant phrasings in concert with Dunmall’s plaintive cries …
HENRY GRIMES TRIO – Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival, featuring David Murray & Hamid Drake, ‘O4 on Ayler Records (aylCD-028), the first label release by the NEW Henry Grimes.
Fred Jung, Editor in Chief, “All About Jazz / L.A.”: Grimes’ first recorded document since his reappearance is a trio session with titans David Murray and Hamid Drake. Murray’s familiar tonal distortions distinguish him among the pantheon of tenors: John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Sam Rivers, and Albert Ayler. And Drake’s boundless percussive vocabulary notes him on a flurry of recent projects from the stateside Fred Anderson and Ken Vandermark to Euros Peter Brötzmann and Misha Mengelberg. But it is Grimes’ beautifully sparse bass solos (particularly arco), characterized by a logical clarity and melodic mastery, that suggest his overwhelmingly rapid rediscovery. Murray’s soulful vibrato often infuses with Drake’s boiling drumming and Grimes’ melodic innocence. Grimes proves himself to be a bass juggernaut, swinging in unhurried fashion, his agile improvisations swelling in texture. Drake’s relentless funk, paired with Grimes’ vividly interesting quotes, promoted by Murray’s brawny tenor saxophone flights, further the music’s unbridled enthusiasm. Never predictable, the trio’s level of intensity and inspiration ranks this recording as one of the finest in Ayler’s considerably important catalog. The journey of Henry Grimes is an interesting one. The disappearance of Grimes is a puzzling one. But the reemergence of Grimes is the best story to come out of music in years. Grimes, who defines just what a true musician is, never failing to live a musical life, even if the music is in silence, has seemingly accepted the blessed circumstances of his new dawn, and we are all better for it.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, downtownmusicgallery.com: There is no better fairy tale in the legends of free jazz than the triumphant return of contrabassist supreme Henry Grimes, after his thirty-year absence and rumors of his demise. This is only Henry’s second date as a leader; his first was on ESP in the mid-sixties, besides the hundreds of historic sessions he did with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor and Sonny Rollins. This is also his second record date since his return; the first was Dennis Gonzalez’ ‘Nile River Suite’. For this fabulous live date, recorded in Finland in June of last year, Henry selected an incredible all-star trio – the mighty David Murray on tenor sax & bass clarinet, and perhaps everyone’s favorite drummer and percussion hero, Hamid Drake, each one a leader and an incredible musician on his own. Both William Parker, another bass legend, and Ben Young, jazz scholar & radio host, have contributed some fine liner notes. This great trio toured Europe last year and this date is/was the fruit of their labors. This is an immensely powerful and intensely creative trio, so focused as one strong and liberating force; the recording also is perfectly balanced, so that each member of this grand trio is one equal part. Nice to hear David Murray playing with that fierce and unquenchable spirit, digging deep and unleashing those sheets of notes. Henry and Hamid are also locked together in rhythmic flight, pumping, pushing and pulling, swinging hard yet free. Over an hour and consistently splendid throughout. Welcome back Mr. Henry Grimes, we love you and we missed you!
Dan Warburton, Editor-in-Chief, “Paris Transatlantic Magazine,” paristransatlantic.com: This album is the first to appear under Henry Grimes’s name since his phoenix-like return, and it’s a scorcher. He couldn’t have found better company either, in the form of tenor saxophonist / bass clarinettist David Murray and drummer Hamid Drake, who perhaps more than any other horn player and percussionist have managed to do what Grimes did so spectacularly on the bass before his disappearance back in 1967, i.e. play with consummate virtuosity and astounding musicianship in all styles, in and out from bop to free. Those who doubted whether Grimes, the man who Denis Charles once said could make a bandstand shake (“I thought the bass was going to explode”) could regain the strength, the tough skin and sheer muscular coordination, let alone the awesomely swift musical creativity, are invited to check this out at their earliest convenience. Not only can the man still walk – nay, run – all over the instrument, but the melodic inventiveness that drove Rollins’ “Our Man In Jazz” forward is as bright and alert as ever. He nails Murray’s “Flowers for Albert,” spurring the saxophonist on to what I’m tempted to describe as one of his most inspired performances of recent times…
Tom Sekowski, vivo.pl: At times, people disappear for a good reason, only to reappear down the line with a renewed sense of purpose. Such was the case with bassist Henry Grimes. He disappeared very mysteriously at the tail end of the 60′s, only to be found a couple of years back living in a motel in Los Angeles. He was as far removed from music when he was found as one can ever be. William Parker gave him a bass, and lo and behold, he’s back playing to packed houses again. It feels almost as if he never disappeared. “Live at The Kerava Jazz Festival” is Henry Grimes first proper album as a leader since “The Call” (ESP) which dates back to mid- 60′s. What a return to form it is! The trio is a powerhouse, where along with Grimes on bass (of course), he’s joined by David Murray on tenor and bass clarinet, along with percussionist Hamid Drake. Henry’s bass playing is absolutely earth-shattering. It’s true, he can make building move and rumble. The deep plucking on “Spin” where he takes an extended solo is mesmerizing. Hamid Drake acts as a very solid partner to Henry’s lead. He concentrates on shimmering cymbal work and in effect gives the trio a sense of forward-looking motion. In effect, David Murray almost steals the spotlight away from the leader. His tenor work is truly robust, as he works out to the extreme on every piece. His version of “Flowers for Albert” nearly steals the show. In every sense of the word, this is the finest work I’d heard David Murray do since 1979′s “3D Family” [hathut], where interestingly enough he was leading an adventurous trio of his own. Depending on how you look at it, this is a showcase for David Murray as well (and it’s good that he hasn’t forgotten his Ayler roots!). It’s only January, and as much as I hate to do this early on in the year, I’ll cast my vote now. I have just heard the record of 2005.
Marc Medwin, bagatellen.com: … Grimes, Hamid Drake and David Murray put on a hugely enjoyable, often transcendent concert of improvised music. From the expectant hush that opens “Spin”, punctuated by Drake’s brush strokes and Grimes’ glissing harmonies, dynamics and energy levels have nowhere to go but up, and up they go with an almost malevolent vigor; beyond all recall and redemption. All three players, masters of that increasingly chameleon art of reference and subreference once mislabeled “free” jazz, spend the gig propelling each other to further and further-flung corners of the stratosphere or down below the gutbucket into the expressionism of uhr-blues. Just where lines are crossed, summits are reached, and homage becomes whim is often difficult to gage, as the stirringly frenetic rendition of the Murray classic “Flowers for Albert” will demonstrate. Murray assimilates, sublimates and transcends Ayler, Drake thumps and punches from moment to moment at the borders of jazz and rock, delicate cymbalwork providing a gorgeously glistening backdrop, while Grimes seems to hear and anticipate every harmonic nuance Murray can muster. Murray is no less a rhetorician, as his funkily slapped bass clarinet work on “Eighty Degrees” places him beyond any further comparison with Dolphy, and that’s only one of his many and multifarious contributions to this date. Despite fireworks of all colors and shapes from Drake and Murray, however, Grimes softly steals the show with his bass solo on “Spin”. I hope it will eventually be the subject of a thorough analytical study; its conception and execution are so unified that it might have been a free-standing “organic” composition. Its first half bowed and the remainder plucked, it begins nebulously enough, like Mahler’s first symphony, with strong hints of the pitch A amidst clusters of rising harmonics. As melodic fragments gradually emerge, they still hover around B-Flat, G, sometimes intimating G-sharp, but often leaving A implicated if not achieved. The arco section exudes white heat, but key moments of silence, especially in the plucked passages, speak even further to Grimes’ compositional leanings as a soloist and to his continued and re-invigorated power as a diversely gifted improviser. His sound is leaner but more direct than on much of his 1960′s work, but his energy and evident enthusiasm remains undimmed. Despite all the buzz, please don’t miss such a transformative listening experience.
Rex Butters, “All About Jazz”: From his return to performing at LA’s World Stage to his triumphant residency in New York, bassist Henry Grimes plays like he’s making up for lost time. Captured here on his first recording in decades, Grimes performs live in Finland with two of the best and hardest-working musicians around, David Murray on reeds and Hamid Drake on drums. Although a generation younger, Murray and Drake share with Grimes an approach that incorporates virtuosity and daunting technical skill to create an active onslaught of ideas. The program opens with Grimes’ “Spin,” the veteran prowling around his bass, Murray and Drake quickly joining him in an easy, unstructured intro. Grimes snaps into a viciously authentic hard bop drive, with Drake including the bass rhythm in one of the many he deals. Murray takes his big tone for an endless ride, as Drake and Grimes shapeshift the time. An a-cappella blast from Grimes begins with shivers, chisels, and slides, followed by prodigious pinpoint pizzicato. Next up, Murray hits his groove and the music pours out of him in torrents. Murray plays an amiable bass clarinet in an easy-going duo with Grimes on “Eighty Degrees.” By the time Drake hits the sticks, the trio gallops with Murray launching skyward. The multirhythmic master takes a majestic solo turn, followed by the trio led by a protean workout by Murray, back on tenor. An interstellar bass solo leads straight into the next composition. Murray’s “Flowers for Albert” seems to reference Grimes’ old boss with playful melody fragments that seem shorthand for Ayleresque melodies. The rhythm section plays straight momentum behind Murray, who rolls around with the tenor. Drake finds beats everywhere, and the band receives a heartfelt ovation that results in the encore, Grimes’ “Blues for Savannah.” A Monkish theme maps the cheerful jam that follows. There’s going to be a tendency to underestimate Grimes’ achievement here, which is akin to a star major league hitter dropping out for thirty years to return more poised with the same power against younger pitchers. For fans unable to catch Grimes, Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival holds the proof that this jazz Orpheus has returned from the underworld a greater light.
Greg Kline: Welcome back Henry! I’m in free jazz heaven listening to the new CD “Henry Grimes Trio Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival.” Henry Grimes’ reappearance after more than three decades is a great story. I’ll tell you an even greater one. The guy, at least from what I hear on this CD, hasn’t lost a lick from when he played bass with Benny Goodman, Miles, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, et al. (Imagine that, a guy good enough, and flexible enough, to play with Goodman AND Ayler.) If that weren’t enough, David Murray, saxophone god (plus bass clarinet on part of this), and Hamid Drake, “widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in improvised music” to quote allmusic, round out the ensemble. It will be hard to beat for my album of the year. I was actually sad when it ended. Thank goodness CDs are supposed to last 50 years, which is probably longer than I will.
For more great reviews of the Henry Grimes Trio CD featuring David Murray and Hamid Drake, please go to: ayler.com!
REVIEWS — BOOKS
David Grundy, Cambridge University (U.K.); Editor, “Eartrip” Magazine: “Signs Along the Road” seems to read itself aloud inside one’s head as one reads. It’s a phenomenon that I don’t recall ever happening to me with any other kind of poetry – the voice that plays itself out in my head is not that of Henry Grimes, nor is it mine, and perhaps it is not even fully a voice, but it does exist in some capacity. This sounds fanciful, but one could describe it as the voice of the poem itself, speaking independently of writer and reader but emerging only from the encounter between them. Such philosophical considerations arise from the conditions which it creates – it makes one think in this way. It forces one’s experience to become enriched, with the gentlest and most studious of touches… Such poetry is incredibly honest, and incredibly generous; it is what is meant by being aware, awake, and alive.
Edwin Pouncey, “The Wire”: “Signs Along the Road” is a selection of poems that Henry Grimes jotted down in hundreds of notebooks between 1978-2OO5, some of which took months, perhaps years, to fully complete. By becoming a poet, Grimes rebirthed himself, sloughing off his old skin to take stock of himself and find a new expression. Poems such as “Ortherama the King” and “Adama and Pourquory” have their roots set in legend, religion, and history, suggesting that the poet spent much of his time studying ancient tracts or poring through dusty volumes in his public library. There is a sense of scholarship here, together with a love of language: how it reads, how it looks on the page, how it sounds when read out loud. Grimes’s sense of rhythm was still strong during this seemingly fallow period in his life, only he was working with a different instrument, and the music he was composing and playing emerged as words.
Carol Pearce Bjorlie, “Bass World”: If you’re looking for a quick read, a comfortable sofa of poetry, jump back! Don’t touch this book. It’s hot! Henry Grimes’ poems bite. Henry Grimes’ poems dig. Henry Grimes’ poems whirl. Henry Grimes’ poems twist. Henry’s poetry takes work. If you are willing to fill in the blanks, drown in words, listen to an improvisation come true, take this book and read it. Henry’s making wordmusic. Words and music mingle in Henry Grimes’ poetry in a confluence of sonority. If you are brave, curious, ready to be seared, read these poems.
Barbara Frenz, Ph.D.: Henry Grimes the musician commands an energy the drummer Denis Charles described: “Henry could make the bandstand shake. I thought his bass was going to explode.” And his poems have this energy too. This poetry embodies the archaic that lies buried within us; it reminds us of the unpredictable, the unknown, the mysterious in life; and in its own way, it makes a political statement as well.”
Carina Prange, “Jazz Dimensions”: Grimes’s poems are a document of numerous years: poems which rhyme, and some that do not; metaphors, word creations, with an abundance of ideas, and laden with genius. One can feel a tremendous sense of depth and a confrontation with the nature of things. Content-wise, the words evolve around everything that constitutes the human existence: everyday life experiences, as well as contemplations about higher powers, spirituality, politics, and the meaning of life itself.
David Francis, “Metaphysical Free”: I recommend “Signs Along the Road” to anyone interested in jazz, poetry, twentieth-century American history, or esoteric individualism. This book should be more widely known. It is provocative, compelling, soulful, and wonderful. Its publication should cause controversy in the rarefied world of poetry and in the ampler and deeper and expanding universe of the mind, to which it belongs.
REVIEWS — ON TOUR
SPACESHIP ON THE HIGHWAY Tour
[HotHouse, Chicago, 3/O5:] Since his triumphant comeback, Henry Grimes has made up for lost time, recording a fine live CD with drummer Hamid Drake and saxophonist David Murray in Finland, and partnering Sun Ra alum saxophonist Marshall Allen for an unlikely duo tour bannered “Spaceship on the Highway.” Saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Avreeayl Ra joined the ship when it touched down at Chicago’s HotHouse in March in front of a diverse crowd. The free-form summit was dominated by stratospheric eruptions from Allen’s unfettered alto, mellifluity from his antiquated EWI, and cosmic poetry, which Anderson backed with bluesy fills and Ra colored with pipings from a cedarwood flute. Nevertheless, the night belonged to Grimes, whose customized space bass boomed beneath his lean, agile fingers. He knew exactly what to do. — Chicago journalist Michael Jackson, “Downbeat”
Henry Grimes is a rare virtuoso without ostentation, an ideal ensemble player of counter-melodies and aggressive rhythms, with a big, true sound… a triumphant return for Grimes and a promise of brilliant music to come. — John Litweiler, “Chicago Sun-Times”
Tonally resplendent bass-playing … perpetual-motion lines too fast, fleet and harmonically free-ranging to be easily notated. Grimes emerged a poet of his instrument. — Howard Reich, “Chicago Tribune”
I was kind of unprepared for how amazing the show would be, having not ever seen Henry and being admittedly skeptical of the story behind his somewhat recent comeback. But he was incredible, as were Marshall [Allen] and Fred Anderson and Avreeayl Ra that night. One of the best shows of the year for me – electrifying. — Matthew Lurie, “Time Out / Chicago”
To briefly share my recollections of the Spaceship on the Highway tour shows that I saw [March, 'O6]: I caught the Detroit show: just Henry and Marshall. Henry was quiet and intensely focused, while Marshall was his wonderful impish self. There were some Ra songs, and Marshall did some singing and clowning while Henry just played and played and played. It was almost like he was in a trance, with amazing ideas flowing out of him. I felt somewhat like Marshall was leading the proceedings to a certain extent, although he certainly followed Henry at times. I missed the first Chicago show, but the reports I read in the paper made it sound like a similar show to Detroit, with the simple addition of Avreeayl Ra and Fred Anderson. Marshall was again nominally the focus, from the reports I got. The second night was something very different. They were a group, and Henry was the leader. He made the stage announcements, and the others looked to him to show the way. The playing all the way around was nothing short of stunning. I’m actually getting chills up my spine thinking about it. The next night there was a jam session at the Velvet Lounge; Marshall’s back was bothering him, so he didn’t attend. When Henry got there and took the stage with Ernest Dawkins and a bunch of youngsters, Henry took command. They played for about 35-45 minutes, and it was a fantastic journey. After that, they settled in on standards for the rest of the evening, and the rotation of players began. There were several other bass players, and they all got to share the stage with Henry. Henry was onstage from about 8:3O til about 12:3O and didn’t take a break. When he gets behind the bass, ideas just pour out of him. The MC said that should be a lesson to all these young players who complain about getting tired. To my eyes, Henry was a kind, humble man who wasn’t/ isn’t quite prepared for all the attention he’s receiving. Music is this man’s focus now, and he’s been playing like he’s making up for lost time. Sure, it’s a great story, but there’s greatness in his playing too. — Sean Westergaard (All Music Guide)
POEMS & CORRESPONDENCE
spiritnote…#286 hymn 10 / pome for henry grimes
he kontinuuez the legacy / borne from the fieldz of the afrikan burial groundz / more than yesteryear buried cowrie shellz and beadz that ancestorz called to the orishaz / summoning the i and i spirit / he kontinuuez the legacy / guarding the urban bush landscapez / see how focuz he layz hiz hand upon hiz instrument / earth’z heartbeat / given from the forestz of the equator / hearing the howl of life from the isle of ife / yesteryear iz today playing / the dawnz of future generationz / heard by tomorrowz obatalaz babiez / he kontinuuez the legacy / dissecting the unity of oppositez / thru swollen fingerz / gathering mojo secretz / crossing the circle of nommo / from hiz long sojourn in babylon’z bush outpostz / he refused death’z call / ogun heard hiz prayer / in the windz of time / ra’z child waz calling / the polyrhythmik bassist / waz ready to dance once again / hummmiiiinnnnn’ hallelujah’z and scattin’ the hard bop’z prayerz / once again creating rainbowz for the moon stepperz / henry grimez iz back / riffin hiz own hearbeat / he kontinuuez the legacy / az amiri barka’z noted pome / “in the tradition” / r worksongz heard once again . . . by a juju kora bassist doing the ol’ monk’z kalinde dance of life / he kontinuuez the legacy
— A. Ibn Pori
justanote . . . # 90 they played speaking in double tonguez part eleven
[written upon hearing Henry Grimes and Marshall Allen in Detroit on the "Spaceship on the Highway" tour, 3/O5]
there were no markz upon their beingz except their tonality registered az a hoodoo or mojo absolutnezz / a mere abstraction of their own reflection az apprenticez or disciplez / real urban bush hipsterz / alive and well in the twenty-first century / the syncretic antithesiz of counterpoint mysticism / real polyrhythmic tempoz that open time-signaturez to how afrikan burial ground peoplez survived in corny babylon / offering their spiritz before new middle amerikkka az the connection between the past and future / acknowledging the wholesome valuez of the tradition . . . / in the musiks / played upon the ear / real soundz created by the handz upon the stringz of the earth / played drawing wind imagez that only aware urban bush mindz cld link up-to / space iz the place / re-echoing az contemptiouz detectivez unveiling the falsificatorz who keep the secret of blueblack spiritz hidden / they played speaking in double tonguez / not afraid of being called crazy or mad / they played it so effortlessly / but u knew it had come from the true underground whirlpool vortex / like the black gold from the bowelz of the earth / when itz all gone / the earth will make itz last hajj / together they came to the crossroad / played again the common thread / opening the door to the otherside by playing again speaking in double tonguez / a little heavier musikz/ wired w/concrete imagez that brought everythang into focuz / space iz the place . . . / echoing the pure spirit chant / awakening and sustaining a peoplez musikz -
— A. Ibn Pori
Email dated August 24, ‘O3 from New York trumpeter Matt Lavelle
please tell mr. grimes i had a dream..
i was looking at a tarot card of henry walking through a doorway, wearing the shirt he had on last night.
at the bottom of the card it said
DONT GIVE UP.
Margaret Emailed me Henry’s poems for his first published book, “Signs Along the Road,” and I was reading them all night and dozed off in my chair and had a dream about Henry. I was looking for a book in my apartment, and he said, “It isn’t in there.” “Where is it?” “It’s underneath.” “What? Underneath what?” “Down where things originate, where the formations are,” he said matter-of-factly, as if he was telling me what to pick up at the store. “Where mythologies are created.” — musician / journalist / educator Marc Medwin, February 1O, ‘O7
Transcription of hand-written letter from Leo Lindberg to Henry Grimes:
My name is Leo Lindberg and I am 9 years old. I listen to jazz music all the time and plays double bass drums and trumpet. First time I heard you was on a record of my father “Complete Communion” with Don Cherry. I thought you were fantastic specially the bow solos and your sound. Then I listened to McCoy Tyner’s “Reaching Fourth” and Roy Haynes quartet with Roland Kirk. When I saw your picture in my father’s jazz magasin and read that you should start playin’ again I was very happy. I took the picture and had one T-shirt made as you see on this photo.
Hope you feel good and starts playin again.
You are my bass hero.
Greetings from Leo
and his father Owe (also a bass player)
[Enclosed was a photo of an adorable little boy holding the neck of an upright bass in one hand; on his T-shirt is a photo of Henry Grimes in the '5O's, also holding a bass; the photo covers little Leo's entire chest. You can see him, in the photo to the right, a year later with his "bass hero."