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JAZZ REVIEWS : Guitarists Grimes, Collins

November 03, 1987|A. JAMES LISKA

The 43-year absence from the Los Angeles jazz scene of Tiny Grimes ended Friday night when the 70-year-old guitarist appeared in concert at the Los Angeles Press Club.

Grimes, best known for his recordings with the legendary pianist Art Tatum, shared the bill with longtime Los Angeles guitarist John Collins, who's best known for his work with Nat (King) Cole. The two players appeared separately and together in the concert sponsored by Jazz Central, a nonprofit organization devoted to jazz education.

Collins opened the concert with a pleasant set of tunes from the standard jazz repertoire. Alternating between picking single-note and multiple-note lines, Collins showed himself an enduring stylist with a great sense of melody. His improvisations never lost sight of the written melodies and his vamping behind the bass solos of Richard Simon also served to keep the tunes clearly in mind.

Though his swinging was splendid on such tunes as "Misty" and "Autumn Leaves," it was his ballad work that awed. Two tunes from the Cole repertoire, "What Is There to Say" and "Nature Boy," were magnificent in their simplicity.

Whereas the guitar seemed an extension of Collins, it was more of an object in the hands of Grimes. Less musically focused than his L.A. counterpart, the New York-based musician swung easily on "Here's That Rainy Day," offered a heavy-handed blues, harshly attacked "I Remember April" and then played a throwaway novelty tune, "He'll Never Sweat." Grimes' musical personality is multiple, and while he is certainly a capable player with an imaginative approach to harmony, no clear sense of the man was evidenced.

Pianist Sir Charles Thompson joined Grimes for a couple of tunes from the Count Basie book and stuck around when the two guitarists met for a brief closing set. Thompson's contributions as an ensemble player were negligible, though a couple of solos were fitting.

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