Henry Grimes, Sunny Murray and David Murray at the Haarlem Jazzstad


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Henry Grimes, Sunny Murray and David Murray
Haarlem Jazzstad Festival
Haarlem, Holland
August 18, 2006
Anyone who is familiar with the remarkable "rediscovery" of bassist Henry Grimes, who distinguished many of the great jazz albums of the 1960's with artists such as Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and Roy Haynes, will hopefully take great relish in the reading of this review—a Trio performance with the man who invented free-jazz drumming and one of the greatest saxophonists to have played jazz in the past 30 years. An event that practically passed under the radar of the jazz world.
The Haarlem Jazzstad Festival in Holland was host to the astonishing Henry Grimes Trio with Sunny Murray and David Murray on Fri 18 August 2006. The Festival has been around for a while—at least since 1966 when Paul Bley made a record there with Barry Altschul on drums—and yet my Uncle (born and bred in Holland and also a musician) had never heard of it! It's a free concert where the main square of Haarlem (a sleepy yet picturesque town 20 minutes south of Amsterdam) serves as the venue for the major acts of the Festival.
Amazingly, I was about the only person there who really knew the historic importance of these players and their appearance at the Festival. Most of the audience was comprised of locals, day-trippers and the curious. How could a trio like this not attract a bigger crowd or more attention in the Jazz press? None of this detracted from the brilliance of the performance. Grimes, Murray and Murray played for 50 minutes through about four extended pieces of free, group improvisation. I could only detect strains of "Sunnymoon For Two" in one of the pieces, but it was a very brief, passing reference as the group played as a group, rather than a soloist out front with rhythm backing. Needless to say, the three men played at a very high level of creativity, group interplay, sheer energy, flexibility, fire and complete instrumental facility.

When the set ended, the Dutch MC (very much aware of the importance of the band on stage) asked for an 'encore'. Grimes agreed, after a moment of reflection, starting with a bass solo that led into David Murray's composition "Flowers for Albert". Sunny Murray at first refused to play an encore, instead lighting a cigarette and leaning nonchalantly against the piano. After a few minutes he finally sat back down at his kit and joined in on brushes, playing a simple backing rhythm, perhaps as a form of protest at what he may have seen as unethical behaviour from the MC. When Grimes cued Murray to take a solo, Murray played a rat-a-tat figure on his snare and neatly brought the song and concert to an end.

Most people recognised this humourous retort and laughed/applauded accordingly. Enthusiastic, continuous and warm applause ended a very, very special jazz performance. Afterwards I was lucky enough to have Henry sign my copy of his ESP album from the 60's THE CALL and to have my photo taken with him. A man of few words, Henry was however completely accomodating and grateful—a giant of the music and one helluva nice man. Speaking specifically of the music played, Grimes displayed his trademark sound, deft technique, creativity and authority on the instrument whilst Sunny Murray played very much in the style of his 1960's recordings with Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor. He created metre-free patterns of sound that seemed to work as a parallel universe of rhythm both independent and complimentary of what his colleagues were playing next to him. David Murray, who also played Bass Clarinet, played with a trance-like intensity, drawing an ocean of sound out of his instruments. You couldn't ask for anything more really, from a jazz concert.

It bears repeating—Henry Grimes, Sunny Murray and David Murray. What a trio...

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