Henry Grimes Trio - Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival

Marc Medwin, Bagatellen

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 mislabelled "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 cymbal work 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.