Henry Grimes Trio - Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival

Paul Donnelly, eJazzNews

Enough has probably already been written about Grimes' disappearance from the music scene and his re-emergence after years of speculation and rumour. So I wont say more except that his experience playing with names such as Cherry, Ayler, Shepp and Taylor has remained as a solid foundation to his playing. Now he is just as careful in choosing who he works with; the ubiquitous David Murray and Hamid Drake make up the trio on this live session.

'Spin', a Grimes tune, kicks off the concert, first with Murray in a brief pensive mood before the bass man starts walking briskly, propelling the sax into its own stride. Murray has always had the knack of shifting from greasy funk to high notes in the space of a breath and this is evident here. Hamid Drake keeps unobtrusive time with the least of effort, occasionally adding accents to Murray's flights. All three are in unison. When Grimes decides to solo it is an integral part of the music, not an attempt at grandstanding. He employs arco and pizzicato techniques almost as an echo of equivalent of Murray's wide-ranging improvisational techniques. His playing is focussed and energetic, a tribute to his history, as well as acknowledging the influences of more contemporary bass playing.

Drake's composition, 'Eighty Degrees' finds Murray first on bass clarinet, reverting later to the tenor. The pairing of the former with the bass is an ideal one as Murray deploys soft, percussive lines alongside Grimes' deft plucking. It is a section of inspiring intimacy as the two players weave around each other. Naturally, they warm up and the bassist really drives this piece with the kind of inexhaustible energies normally attributed to a much younger man. Drake solos, cymbals keeping crisp time, as he initiates an eloquent conference between all members of his kit. When Murray returns he is full of fire and invention, constructing one of the most compelling solos I've heard from him. He barely pauses for breath, reaching up into the freakish high notes then swooping back into the hardest of hard bop figures.

Before you know it Grimes has voiced another succinct solo and the trio have segued into the old Murray favourite, 'Flowers For Albert'. The tenorman states that simple but attractive motif then pushes at its skeletal boundaries a little while bass and drums put flesh on it. It would have been a superb finale to an exhilarating concert but the audience were in no mood to let them go and a prolonged show of hands and voices brings a buoyant encore, Grimes' 'Blues For Savannah', a piece which finds all three men swinging as one.

This trio bears out my belief that it is one of the most consistently productive and demanding of line-ups in jazz. It is a fine example of all three players reaching creative peaks and, as such, is essential listening.