Henry Grimes Trio - Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival

Jason Bivins, Dusted Magazine

Almost everyone reading this is familiar with the story. A couple years ago, Henry Grimes - the bass player who disappeared along with the 1960s - turned up in Southern California, much to the jazz world's collective shock. Having once played with everyone from Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes to Burton Greene and Albert Ayler, a bemused Grimes inquired "How's Albert?" Long gone, is the answer, though the late saxophonist's legacy of creativity and free expressionism remains. On this date, Grimes teams up with two of the most powerful and resourceful players to emerge from (roughly speaking) the Ayler continuum: tenor sax/bass clarinet demigod David Murray and percussionist Hamid Drake. Together the three make some fierce, riveting jazz.
Grimes has played a hell of a lot since his return (and with that weird looking green bass someone donated), and in many of these concerts there is a sense that he's making up for all the lost notes not played during those decades. As good as he often is, that can be somewhat distracting (as it was during some of his Vision Festival performances from 2004). So I'm thankful that this performance - recorded just days after Vision, when Grimes and his mates flew to Finland - is possessed of more restraint and focus. And if Grimes is occasionally a bit too busy or a bit too insistent in his rhythmic emphasis, it's a small flaw in an otherwise rousing performance.
Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival is an hour-long set featuring two 20-minute-plus workouts in addition to two punchy encores (including Murray favorite "Flowers for Albert," which has a new urgency here). It's been a while since I've heard any new Murray, and he sounds fantastic here. He has few, if any, peers in terms of his appropriation of '60s-style saxophone techniques (overblowing, mastery of altissimo playing, etc.) and his integration of this style with older, pre-bop idioms (Chu Berry and Don Byas come to mind). This is a more or less perfect match with Grimes' dancing bass, which swings briskly here and groans hellishly there. And with Drake's unique propulsion lighting a fire beneath the music, and taking some blistering solos, these long improvisations mostly avoid meandering. Aside from all the energy, there are also numerous spots where the trio explores a more ruminative space (as on the excellent attention to color and subtle gesture during "Eighty Degrees," a bass clarinet feature). Not everything clicks completely - the closing number is a blues romp which doesn't quite convince - but overall this one's pretty hot.