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Henry Grimes

Born: November 3, 1935    Primary Instrument: Bass, acoustic

Henry Grimes

The Miraculous Return of the Great Henry Grimes!

Master jazz musician (acoustic bass, violin) HENRY GRIMES has played nearly 5OO concerts in 28 countries (including many festivals) since 2OO3, when he made his astonishing return to the music world after 35 years away. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended the Mastbaum School and Juilliard. As a youngster in the '5O's and early '6O's, he came up in the music playing and touring with Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson, Arnett Cobb, “Bullmoose” Jackson, “Little” Willie John, and a number of other great R&B / soul musicians; at Juilliard he played classical music on bass with the opera orchestra and studied with the great Fred Zimmermann, principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic; but drawn to jazz, he went on to play, tour, and record with many great jazz musicians of that era, including Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Sunny Murray, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, and Rev. Frank Wright. ...
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Henry Grimes has received many honors in recent years, including four Meet the Composer grants and a grant from the Acadia Foundation, and he has been honored for his outstanding musicianship by many publications and organizations (designated "best of," etc).
If only for the Ann Arbor debut of the legendary and recently rediscovered bassist Henry Grimes, the closing night of Edgefest [Oct., 'O5] would be deemed an overwhelming success. As if making up for the lost decades, Grimes, rarely playing at less than an eighth-note pace, gently prodded reedman Andrew Lamb and drummer Newman Taylor Baker through a handful of insistent yet meditative suites that found plenty of room for all three players to shine. That the trio rarely rose above a whisper didn't take away from its intensity; rather, with Grimes furnishing mantra-like foundations both with his fingers and a bow, Baker and Lamb were able to overlay their own invocations, creating an almost chamber-music-like vibe in the intimate venue. Lamb, who switched between tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute, was a worthy melodic foil for Grimes' churning rhythms, while Baker, tastefully restrained, relied on nuance and color in order not to overshadow the leader. Grimes clearly was totally assured with his instrument at his command, rewarding an adoring house that had waited far too long to bask in the virtuosity of one of jazz's truly legendary figures. - Will Stewart, “Ann Arbor News”

Since his triumphant comeback, Henry Grimes has made up for lost time, recording a fine live CD with drummer Hamid Drake and saxophonist David Murray in Finland, and partnering Sun Ra alum saxophonist Marshall Allen for an unlikely duo tour bannered “Spaceship on the Highway.” Saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Avreeayl Ra joined the ship when it touched down at Chicago's HotHouse in March in front of a diverse crowd. The free-form summit was dominated by stratospheric eruptions from Allen's unfettered alto, mellifluity from his antiquated EWI, and cosmic poetry, which Anderson backed with bluesy fills and Ra colored with pipings from a cedarwood flute. Nevertheless, the night belonged to Grimes, whose customized space bass boomed beneath his lean, agile fingers. He knew exactly what to do. - Michael Jackson, “Downbeat”

Henry Grimes is a rare virtuoso without ostentation, an ideal ensemble player of counter-melodies and aggressive rhythms, with a big, true sound... a triumphant return for Grimes and a promise of brilliant music to come. - John Litweiler, “Chicago Sun-Times”

Tonally resplendent bass-playing ... perpetual-motion lines too fast, fleet and harmonically free-ranging to be easily notated. Grimes emerged a poet of his instrument. - Howard Reich, “Chicago Tribune”

I was kind of unprepared for how amazing the show would be, having not ever seen Henry and being admittedly skeptical of the story behind his somewhat recent comeback. But he was incredible, as were Marshall [Allen] and Fred Anderson and Avreeayl Ra that night. One of the best shows of the year for me - electrifying. - Matthew Lurie, “Time Out Chicago”

I'm at the first night of the 1Oth Vision Festival ('O5), New York's most forward-looking jazz event... Henry Grimes's quartet features Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen with the science fiction-like electronic glissandi of his EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). Grimes sculpts tones from his bass with a sense of time that continually subdivides the pulse into tributaries of counter-comments. As the energy of the performance reaches a natural cadence, Grimes pulls a funky riff from the air that relights fire-crackers under the band. And with his final solo, Grimes's fingers scurry down the fingerboard in some seemingly abstractly choreographed pattern, except that the musical sense of what he plays communicates instantly. - Maggie Williams, Editor, “Double Bassist”

Henry Grimes' huge sound and inventiveness are the qualities that made him a bass player sought after by both avant-garde and mainstream musicians - not that these distinctions make any difference for such a deep musician. - Francesco Martinelli, “All About Jazz”

Henry Grimes took charge of terra firma, shaking the floorboards with booming notes that segued stealthily from jocular to foreboding - a sort of four-stringed analogue to James Earl Jones on a wild oratorical ride. Grimes draws heavily from the blues, but doesn't bore his audience with simple retellings of the genre's stock stories. He stains them with his own blood, sweat and tears, making his canvases among the music's most poignant and exhilarating. - David Sprague, “Variety”

Henry Grimes returns, proceeds to jump back into this river of music, he is splashing in it, rolling in the flow of sound, with a joy that is now! not yesterday. The cry is I'm happy to be alive and I love music and I want to play as much as I can. - William Parker

Henry has unbelievable ears and what he plays will always relate to what’s going on in some completely unpredictable and beautiful way. It’s tempting to write off the density of his playing as just him going off the deep end, but when you listen to it, you hear the melody sped up, counterpointed, harmonized, attacked, distorted, played backwards. He’s really a Cecil Taylor of the bass. When I play with Henry, it’s as if I’d only seen synthetic fabrics my whole life, and I’m confronted with a hand-knitted wool sweater with all its oddities and imperfections-different, yet infinitely warmer. - Marc Ribot

Henry Grimes is among the greatest improvisers living in the world today. His playing is exquisite. - Roscoe Mitchell

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Primary Instrument:
Bass, acoustic

New York, NY

Willing to teach:

Henry Grimes has taught workshops and master classes and / or held residencies at Berklee College of Music, City College of New York, The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Bard College, Mills College (invited by Roscoe Mitchell), CalArts (invited by Wadada Leo Smith), Hamilton College of the Arts, Scuole Brusio and Scuole Poschiavo in Switzerland (Uncool Festival), second-grade students at the Carlucci School in Sintra, Portugal (see some very dear photos and commentary at, JazzInstitut Darmstadt, and the University of Gloucester at Cheltenham, U.K., among others, all within the past five years. Henry Grimes also teaches students, whether beginning, intermediary, or advanced levels, privately at his home studio in Manhattan (New York City). Private lessons are usually available late afternoons and early evenings when Henry is in town. His regular rate is $75 per lesson, negotiable if the student is having hard times, and lessons usually last about 9O minutes.

Clinic/Workshop Information:
see "teacher profile" above.

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Date Venue Ticket
Jun01 SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, CA

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