From his return to performing at LA's World Stage to his triumphant residency in New York, bassist Henry Grimes plays like he's making up for lost time. Captured here on his first recording in decades, Grimes performs live in Finland with two of the best and hardest working musicians around, David Murray on reeds and Hamid Drake on drums. Although a generation younger, Murray and Drake share with Grimes an approach that incorporates virtuosity and daunting technical skill to create an active onslaught of ideas.
The program opens with Grimes' "Spin, the veteran prowling around his bass, Murray and Drake quickly joining him in an easy, unstructured intro. Grimes snaps into a viciously authentic hard bop drive, with Drake including the bass rhythm in one of the many he deals. Murray takes his big tone for an endless ride, as Drake and Grimes shapeshift the time. An a capella blast from Grimes begins with shivers, chisels, and slides, followed by prodigious pinpoint pizzicato. Next up, Murray hits his groove and the music pours out of him in torrents. Murray plays an amiable bass clarinet in an easy going duo with Grimes on "Eighty Degrees. By the time Drake hits the sticks, the trio gallops with Murray launching skyward. The multirhythmic master takes a majestic solo turn, followed by the trio led by a protean workout by Murray, back on tenor. An interstellar bass solo leads straight into the next composition.
Murray's "Flowers for Albert seems to reference Grimes' old boss with playful melody fragments that seem shorthand for Ayleresque melodies. The rhythm section plays straight momentum behind Murray, who rolls around with the tenor. Drake finds beats everywhere, and the band receives a heartfelt ovation that results in the encore, Grimes' "Blues for Savannah. A Monkish theme maps the cheerful jam that follows.
There's going to be a tendency to underestimate Grimes' achievement here, which is akin to a star major league hitter dropping out for thirty years to return more poised with the same power against younger pitchers. For fans unable to catch Grimes, Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival holds the proof that this jazz Orpheus has returned from the underworld a greater light.
Track Listing: Spin; Eighty Degrees; Flowers for Albert; Blues for Savannah.
Personnel: Henry Grimes, bass; David Murray, tenor sax, bass clarinet; Hamid Drake, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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