Henry Grimes performes this unique solo on double bass with Zim Ngqawana, sax; and Andrew Cyrille, drums; at The Stone in New York City on November 30, 2010.
Henry Grimes is a jazz double bassist, violinist, and poet who was born on November 3, 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, Grimes took up the violin, then began playing tuba, English horn, percussion, and finally the double bass at age 13 or 14, while he was in high school. Grimes furthered his musical studies at Juilliard, and established a reputation as a versatile bassist in the mid 1950s. He recorded or performed with saxophonists Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins, pianist Thelonious Monk, singer Anita O'Day, clarinetist Benny Goodman and many others. At a time when bassist Charles Mingus was experimenting with a second bass player in his band, Grimes was the person he selected for the job. One of his earliest appearances on film is captured in the Bert Stern documentary on the Newport Jazz Festival, "Jazz on a Summer's Day."
Gradually growing interested in free jazz, Grimes performed with most of the music's important names, including pianist Cecil Taylor, trumpeter Don Cherry, saxophonists Steve Lacy, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Albert Ayler. He released one album, The Call as a trio leader for the ESP-Disk record label in 1965. The album features Perry Robinson on clarinet and Tom Price on drums and is considered to be of a great quality representative of his career.
After more than a decade of activity and performance, notably as a leading bassist in free jazz, Grimes completely disappeared from the music scene around 1970 and was presumed dead.
Marshall Marrotte, a social worker and jazz fan, set out to discover Grimes's fate once and for all. In 2003, he found Grimes alive but nearly destitute, without a bass to play, renting a tiny apartment in Los Angeles, California, writing poetry and doing odd jobs to support himself. He had fallen out of touch with the jazz world and was unaware Albert Ayler had died, but was eager to perform again.
Word spread of Grimes's 'resurrection', and some musicians and fans offered their help. Bassist William Parker donated a bass (nicknamed "Olive Oil", for its distinctive greenish color) and with David Gage's help had it shipped from New York to Los Angeles, and others assisted with travel expenses and arranging performances. Grimes's return was featured in The New York Times and on National Public Radio.