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JAZZ REVIEW

Grimes makes a welcome return

June 12, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

The New York avant-garde jazz scene of the '60s would not have been the same without Henry Grimes. Although the bassist had established solid credentials as a mainstream player in the late '50s with Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins, he quickly embraced the startling, ever-shifting new music forms bursting onto the scene in the next decade.

Performing with such stalwarts of the new music as Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler and Don Cherry, among others, he provided a rich, resonant, sturdy foundation for many of the most envelope-stretching musical excursions.

Grimes' disappearance from jazz in the late '60s and subsequent rediscovery late last year by jazz fan Marshall Marrotte has been well documented. But the question that remained was whether Grimes, who received a new instrument as the result of Marrotte's efforts, could regain his extraordinary skills more than three decades after he stopped playing.

On Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery, in one of the several performances he has been giving around the Southland over the past few months, the answer was a definite yes. Performing in a free-floating jazz setting with saxophonist-clarinetist Greg Dahl, pianist John Wood and drummer Eric Steck, Grimes offered a focused sound and fluid articulation that were the rallying point for a set of improvisations that might otherwise have lost their way.

While the setting in no way approximated the level of expertise or inventiveness Grimes experienced in the '60s, it nonetheless revealed that he is fully ready to return to high level musical action. That's a rare upbeat tale in an art more familiar with dark endings.

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