Henry Grimes Trio - Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival

Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition

The re-emergence of the brilliant Henry Grimes, from the peak of being one of the most in demand bass players on the New York scene in the 1960s (think of backing Coltrane, Mingus, Monk, and Rollins, and playing on landmark albums of Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, and Albert Ayler) to a period of relative obscurity for approximately 35 years.
Then in 2002 Grimes was found living in seclusion in a low-rent apartment in Los Angeles. Long away from the music scene, Henry was provided with assistance and a classic green bass, affectionally nicknamed, Olive Oil.
Brought back to New York, and hailed as a returning savior by the avantguarde jazz community, the question of whether Henry could regain his jazz bass chops was on everyone’s mind. Having left the jazz scene at age 31, and returning in his mid 60s, one had to wonder, could Henry play and still hold his own with both the surviving old timers and equally with the new hot players in town, who had just read about Henry’s prowess through word of mouth.

Any apprehension was soon put to rest as Henry, a major voice in the past, jumped back in the action with both feet (and bow) stating, “I’m back and ready to resume my quest.” Aided by partner and business manager, Margaret Davis, Grimes soon blew away any doubts. It was the feel good story of the early 2000s in New York City.

Evidence of Henry’s brilliance is found on this Ayler Records issue, Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival, recorded in June, 2004 in front of an adoring and rapturous audience. Henry, along with his equally titanic band mates - David Murray on tenor sax and bass clarinet, and the multi-talented drummer, Hamid Drake - thrilled the Festival crowd with an inside/outside mix of both free jazz and a healthy dose of the blues.

To my neophyte avant jazz ears, this concert session is refreshing, challenging, intriguing, yet approachable. Murray is a reed man that can do it all - both straight ahead, then blowing off the roof with free open phrasing. Drake is an active participant, spurring on his partners, yet having his own say independently when needed. Henry Grimes is a revelation, in the pocket and up front in the mix, both walking his bass in the straight ahead manner of Leroy Vinnegar, yet percussive with meaty solos - both bowed and pizzicato - a man fully in charge.

Comprised of two extended 20+ minute workouts - Spin and Eighty Degrees - and two shorter compositions, a 7:48 duel with between Grimes and Murray (Flowers for Albert), and the closing Blues for Savanah, driven by Grimes, which has an almost Monkish feel, though devoid of piano.

Welcome back, Henry. You’ve been missed. Long may you reign!