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The disappearance and re-emergence of Henry Grimes after almost 30 years is one of jazz music's great resurrection stories. The Juilliard-trained double bassist, who began his career in the late 1950s with the likes of clarinetist Benny Goodman and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan before becoming an avatar of the avant-garde in the bands of saxophonist Albert Ayler and pianist Cecil Taylor, vanished at the height of his acclaim to a life of obscurity on the West Coast, to return in 2003 through the assistance of fans and a coterie of musicians on both coasts.
The Call, Grimes' sole effort as a leader from his early days in New York and Solo, though recorded more than three decades apart, represent a continuum that is, in many ways, as miraculous as the bassist's re-emergence. Taking up where he left off, Grimes returned to the scene with creative reserves undiminished by his years of obscurity. Grimes has become a familiar face at festivals and concerts, re-established artistic relationships and begun new collaborations with generations who had grown up listening to his tumultuous, soulful music.
On The Call, Grimes leads a free-minded trio of clarinetist Perry Robinson and drummer Tom Price through a series of original compositions that serve mostly as bare-bone structures for the discursive improvisations in which the trio specialized. "For Django" develops from dirge to a roiling up-tempo free improvisation that pairs Robinson's blues-inflected squawks and trills with the leader's bass lines and authoritative double stops. Grimes takes a brief bowed solo exposition before the trio returns with the mournful refrain.
On "Saturday Night What Th,'" Grimes' emerges from the tangled opening fray with a solo exposition that could be edited seamlessly into Solo, the bassist's 2008 release. Produced by the Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, Solo features Grimes in an uninterrupted, double-disc length improvisation on bass and violin. The lengthy performance is sustained by the characteristic duality that has marked Grimes' playing from 1960s: an unshakable sense of swing that permeates the most free improvisation and an ability to sustain ideas without reference to bar lines or recognizable forms.
Make no mistake: Solo is a difficult album to digest. It is a work as inscrutable and unrelenting as its creator but displays an unblinking devotion to a path deferred, but never abandoned.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Fish Story; For Django; Walk On; Saturday Nite What Th'; The Call; Son of Alfalfa.
Personnel: Henry Grimes: bass; Perry Robinson: clarinet; Tom Price: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.