Very sad to hear of the passing of yet another significant jazz musician with the news of the death of bassist Henry Grimes who has died due to coronavirus aged 84 in Harlem. Henry's wife, Margaret confirmed his passing to the Jazz Foundation of America, according to WBGO.
Grimes played with a who's who of jazz greats in the 1960s who included Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Albert Ayler.
His career in music was never an easy journey and he disappeared from the music scene for decades only emerging in the early-2000s when he was given a new bass by his fellow avantist William Parker and then began to play shows in America and abroad again.
I heard him twice during his comeback years towards the end of his career, in Finland at the Tampere Jazz Happening, and best of all in 2011 at the Bishopsgate Institute near Liverpool Street station in London with Marc Ribot playing the music of Albert Ayler and John Coltrane. Reviewing that concert for Jazzwise I wrote that the spirit of Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and the blues, were at the forefront of the sound that night.
''A music born of protest, humility, humanity, life itself, as relevant today as yesterday, was being played out just over a mile away from the tents [of Occupy London] protesters at St Paul’s as the cathedral reopened. The Holy Ghost, as Ayler was dubbed, the counterpart of Trane as Father, was being invoked. As for the Son (an absent Pharoah Sanders) who knows? As for Henry Grimes, who played and recorded with Ayler, he was at the centre of everything the trio did, while Chad Taylor’s excellent multi-directional drumming summoned up the style of the much missed Rashied Ali, who Grimes performed with not long before Ali’s death two years earlier. Grimes, it was not unfair to Ribot, carried the gig, presiding over every shift, subtle, obvious, rhythmic, conceptual, or otherwise. Mobile, fast impressive ideas worn big and to fit, the years melted away and a music was reborn without sounding dated at all. Trane’s ‘Sun Ship’ near the end was unbelievably potent and earlier what sounded like ‘Truth Is Marching In’ was another highlight.''
Grimes played his truth. That was what made him significant and inspirational. He will be missed. SG