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Henry Grimes Twofer: The Power of Light & Going to the Ritual

John Sharpe By

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Henry Grimes & Oluyemi Thomas
The Power of Light
Not Two
2007


Henry Grimes & Rashied Ali
Going to the Ritual
Porter Records
2008




Which are the more conducive to creativity: first time meetings or established partnerships? On this evidence, bassist Henry Grimes favors the former. While Grimes has been very actively touring since his fabled return, he has not been so prolific in recorded output, so these two first-time duets are noteworthy. Both are continuous, almost hour-long, improvised live performances (though helpfully split into multiple tracks). Grimes switches from arco to pizzicato at will and rarely explores an idea at length before moving onto the next inspiration in an unbroken stream but he's at his best when he allows space for both his own and his colleague's ideas to breathe.

Power of Light features Oakland-based reedman Oluyemi Thomas alongside Grimes live in Pittsburgh in July 2006. Like Grimes, Thomas is a stream of consciousness player, most often on bass clarinet, but also on musette, soprano saxophone, gongs and shakers. Whinnies, wails and vocalized yelps are Thomas' stock in trade, even on the tricky musette. In the early stages both men are setting out their stalls, but as the concert progresses the connections become more tangible. The most arresting moments stem from felicitous confluences between the falsetto-register horns pitched against Grimes' wavering arco. Towards the end the combinations of earthy bass first with wood flute and then serpentine soprano take on a satisfyingly elemental, almost ritual cast.

If the ritual elements betoken the most compelling sections of the date with Thomas, that feel of hidden meaning informs every part of Going to the Ritual, a March 2007 meeting with master drummer Rashied Ali in the studios of WKCR-New York. This was their first date together since appearing on Archie Shepp's On This Night back in 1965. Though sustaining interest over 55 minutes with just bass and drums might seem an impossibility, the two veterans carry it off with aplomb (only slightly aided by Grimes' doubling on his restlessly soaring violin and recitation of his poetry, with arco swipes maintaining the flow). With his well-tempered drums, Ali eschews bombast and such is his grasp of dynamics that a strong structural sense pervades the set. Grimes makes a strong case for first meetings, but the subtext is that they nonetheless benefit from common ground and the capacity for instant design that comes from hard-won experience.


Tracks and Personnel

The Power of Light

Tracks: Grace for the Race; Water of Thine Eternity; Fractured Flow; Brothers Telling Song; Hidden Mystery; Lightbathers in Soundwaves; Dance of the Planets, Spirits Abounding; Tabernacle.

Personnel: Oluyemi Thomas: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, musette, gong, flute, percussion; Henry Grimes: bass.

Going to the Ritual

Tracks: Hidden Forces Aggregate; Recitation of poem by Henry Grimes, Easternal Mysticism, Virtue and Calm; Gone Beyond the Gate; This Must Always Have Happened.

Personnel: Henry Grimes: acoustic bass, violin, voice; Rashied Ali: trap drums.


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