Henry Grimes

Henry Grimes, born November 3, 1935, died April 17, 2020. He was an American jazz double-bassist, violinist and poet. Grimes disappeared completely from the music scene in 1970 after more than a decade’s worth of performance and activity, including as a prominent bassist in free-jazz. Grimes was frequently believed to have died. However, he was rediscovered and returned to performing in 2002. Henry Grimes was a Philadelphia native. At the age of 12 he took up the violin and then began to play tuba, English Horn, percussion, and then the double bass in highschool. By the mid-1950s, he had established a reputation for being a versatile bassist and continued his musical education at Juilliard. Sonny Rollins and Gerry Mulligan were among his many collaborators. He also recorded and performed with Anita O’Day, Clarinetist Benny Goodman, and pianist TheloniousMonk. Grimes was chosen for the job by Charles Mingus, who was trying out a second bass player with his band. His first appearance on film can be seen in the Bert Stern documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, 1958. At 22 years of age, word quickly spread among musicians about his exceptional playing and he was invited to play with six groups at the festival: the Benny Goodmans, Lee Konitzs, Gerry Mulligans, Sonny Rollins and Tony Scott. Although Henry’s name was not printed in the festival program, Bosley Crowther, a New York Times critic, took notice of the young bassist and listed his name as one of the festival’s main players. Growing more interested in free jazz, Grimes played with many of the music’s most important players, including trumpeter Don Cherry and Cecil Taylor. He also performed with Steve Lacy, Pharoah Bernie, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler. In 1965, he released The Call as a leader of the ESP-Disk trio. This album, which features Perry Robinson on clarinet with drummer Tom Price, is representative of his career. After his move to California in the 1960s, Grimes’ career was halted. Grimes was often believed to have died. He was also listed in many jazz reference books. Marshall Marrotte was a social worker who also loves jazz and set out to find Grimes’s fate. He found Grimes alive, but not quite poor, and rented a small apartment in Los Angeles. There, he wrote poetry and did odd jobs to make ends meet. He was out of touch and didn’t know Albert Ayler had passed away in 1970. However, he was keen to return to jazz. The news of Grimes’s return spread quickly and many musicians and fans offered their support. William Parker, bassist, donated a bass (nicknamed Olive Oil for its distinctive greenish-colored color). David Gage helped to ship it from New York City to Los Angeles. Others assisted with travel expenses and arrangements for performances. Grimes’s return to the stage was covered in The New York Times as well as National Public Radio. Northway Books published “Music to Silence to Music” in London in 2015. A documentary film of Grimes is in the works. Henry Grimes made up the difference: in 2003, he appeared at more than two dozen music festivals and other events. After receiving a warm welcome at the Vision Festival’s free jazz-oriented Vision Festival, he began to teach lessons and workshops for bassists. The November 2003 recording by the bassist on Dennis Gonzalez’ Nile River Suite, was his second recording in over 35 years. It also included a JazzNewYork recording that Grimes performed in a solo concert. This recording was made at Columbia University’s WKCR-FM studios in New York. He recorded with Hamid Drake and David Murray in 2004; and with Marc Ribot in 2005. Marc Ribot also wrote the introduction to Grimes’ first book, Signs Along the Road. This collection of Grimes poetry was published by buddy’s knife jazzedition, Cologne, Germany in March 2007. It contains his selections from thousands of pages of Grimes’ writings over the many years that he wasn’t playing music. In 2007, Grimes recorded with Rashied Ali, drummer. He has performed a dozen duo concerts with Marilyn Crispell and a trio with Marc Ribot. Also, in 2005, Grimes wrote an introduction to Grimes’ first book, Signs Along the Road. This collection of Grimes’ poetry was published by buddy’s knife jazzedition in Cologne, Germany in March 2007. It contains Grimes’ selections from thousands of pages of his writings during his long absence. Grimes returned to New York in 2003 and has performed at numerous venues. He has also been on tour in the United States and Canada. The Chelsea Art Museum hosted a reimagining of Black Zero, an event that was created in 1960s by Aldo Tambellini, a pioneering media artist. The multi-media work was performed by Tambellini on numerous occasions between 1965-1968, often with the help of jazz musicians like Cecil McBee and Bill Dixon. Christoph Draeger, a Swiss conceptual artist, produced the performance at Chelsea Art Museum and invited Grimes. Grimes performed with Ben Morea. He was accompanied by simultaneous slide-film projections by Aldo Tambolini, and sound recordings from Calvin Hernton’s radical poetry. Between Henry Grimes’s 2003 return to music and his 80th birthday in 2016, more than 640 concerts have been played, including many festivals. Grimes has held numerous residencies over the years and taught master classes and workshops on many campuses including Hamilton College in New York, Berklee College of Music and City College of New York. At the age 70, Mr. Grimes made his professional debut playing the violin (a second instrument) at Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Center. Since then, he has been creating illustrations for his new recordings and publications. In recent years, he has been honored with many awards, including four Meet the Composer grants. You can hear Mr. Grimes on almost 90 recordings on many labels including Atlantic, Ayler Records and Blue Note, Columbia. Henry Grimes lived in New York City, had many clinics and performed on international tours. He was presented with the Arts for Art / Vision Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award on June 7, 2016. This award was given at Judson Memorial church in New York City. Grimes, 84, died April 17, 2020 from COVID-19. From Wikipedia

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