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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Now Found: Henry Grimes

Night Lights talks with Henry Grimes, the legendary bassist who returned to the jazz scene after disappearing for more than 30 years.

Henry Grimes and Fred Anderson

Photo: Mark Sheldon

Henry Grimes performing with saxophonist Fred Anderson.

Bassist Henry Grimes played with everybody from Benny Goodman to Albert Ayler and appeared on some of the 1960s’ most significant jazz recordings before vanishing for more than 30 years. Long rumored to be dead, he was discovered living in Los Angeles in 2002. William Parker, a bassist who’d been strongly influenced by Grimes’ work, donated an instrument to Grimes, who began to play again for the first time in three decades. Since then Grimes has re-emerged as a potent force in the world of improv, and his story has turned from mystery into one of the greatest comebacks in the history of jazz. We’ll hear selections from Grimes’ 1960s work with Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Perry Robinson, and others, as well as Grimes’ sole 1960s leader effort (The Call) and a track from his 2004 trio CD with saxophonist David Murray and percussionist Hamid Drake. In addition, Grimes talks to us about his years away from the jazz scene.

Music Heard On This Episode

Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)
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Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)

Notes: Opening theme.

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Funk Dumpling
Perry Robinson — Funk Dumpling (Savoy, 1962)

Notes: Henry Grimes composition. Grimes on bass.

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Moon Ray
Roy Haynes — Out of the Afternoon (Impulse, 1962)

Notes: Henry Grimes on bass.

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There Will Never Be Another You
Sonny Rollins — 3 In Jazz (52725, 1963)

Notes: Henry Grimes on bass.

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Ol' Man River (take 2)
Albert Ayler — Goin' Home (Black Lion, 1964)

Notes: Henry Grimes on bass.

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Fish Story
Henry Grimes — The Call (ESP, 1965)

Notes: Midpoint music bed. Henry Grimes composition; Henry Grimes on bass.

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Son of Alfalfa
Henry Grimes — The Call (ESP, 1965)

Notes: Henry Grimes composition. Grimes on bass.

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Elephantasy (excerpt)
Don Cherry — Complete Communion (Blue Note, 1965)

Notes: Henry Grimes on bass.

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Japan
Pharoah Sanders — Tauhid (Impulse, 1966)

Notes: Henry Grimes on bass.

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Conquistador (excerpt)
Cecil Taylor — Conquistador (Blue Note, 1966)
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Flowers for Albert
Henry Grimes — Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival (Ayler Records, 2004)

Notes: David Murray on tenor sax, Hamid Drake on drums.

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Night Lights
Gerry Mulligan — Night Lights (Polygram, 1963)

Notes: Closing theme.

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  • Margaret Grimes

    Here’s a Henry Grimes update as of now (Nov., 2017 at age 82):

    Henry Grimes (acoustic bass, violin, poetry, illustrations) is a heroic figure, one of the primary architects of avant-jazz and improvised music. In the 1950s and ’60s, after attending Juilliard (1953-56), he worked alongside Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Charles Mingus,Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Sunny Murray, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, and many more… and then went through 35 years of very hard times in the worst part of downtown L.A. without an instrument to play, where, contrary to the narrative in this “Night Lights” issue, he did not have an “apartment,” but only a tiny single room. He kept himself alive with jobs in manual labor and sustained his artistic spirit by reading and studying literature at the local library and filling some 90 notebooks with handwritten poetry. Assisted by William and Patricia Parker, Marshall Marrotte, and Margaret Davis (now Grimes), Henry made a triumphant return to the music world in 2003 and has been surpassing himself and all expectations ever since, playing more than 600 concerts, touring, teaching, and recording in 31 countries, with (among others) Geri Allen, Marshall Allen, Marilyn Crispell, Andrew Cyrille, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Roscoe Mitchell, Jason Moran, David Murray, William Parker, Matana Roberts, Marc Ribot, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, and Henry Threadgill. Mr. Grimes also made his professional debut on a second instrument (his first as a child), the violin, with Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Center in 2007. The first published volume of Henry’s poetry, “Signs Along the Road,” appeared in print via a publisher in Cologne in 2004, with more volumes to follow. Henry can be heard on 90 recordings on various labels. Recently, “Music to Silence to Music: A Biography of Henry Grimes” was published by Dr. Barbara Frenz (Northway Books, London), with a beautiful foreword by Sonny Rollins. And in June of 2016, Henry Grimes received the annual Lifetime Achievement Award from Arts for Art / Vision Festival on opening night at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. http://henrygrimes.com (check for upcoming performances), https://www.facebook.com/HenryGrimes, grimestimes@earthlink.net, 212-841-0899.
    … And much more to follow! …

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