Music Program

Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.

$18 general admission, $12 members/students/seniors

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Just Buffalo and Hallwalls present

Henry Grimes solo


Asbury Hall, in Babeville

This concert is made possible through the generous support of Robert D. Bielecki.

Henry Grimes
photo by Brendan Bannon
Henry Grimes (contrabass, violin, poetry)

Click here to read "Jazz greats find their way to Buffalo," Jeff Simon's season preview in The Buffalo News.

Henry Grimes has played more than 380 concerts in 24 countries (including many festivals) since May of '03, 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. In the '50s and '60s, he came up in the music playing and touring with Arnett Cobb, Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson, "Bullmoose" Jackson, "Little" Willie John, and a number of other great R&B / soul musicians; 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, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, and many more.

Sadly, a trip to the West Coast to work with Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks went awry, leaving Henry in Los Angeles at the end of the '60's with a broken bass he couldn't pay to repair, so he sold it for a small sum and faded away from the music world. Many years passed with nothing heard from him, as he lived in his tiny rented room in an S.R.O. hotel in downtown Los Angeles, working as a manual laborer, custodian, and maintenance man, and writing many volumes of handwritten poetry.

He was discovered there by a Georgia social worker and fan in 2002 and was given a bass by William Parker, and after only a few weeks of ferocious woodshedding, Henry emerged from his room to begin playing concerts around Los Angeles, and shortly afterwards made a triumphant return to New York City in May, '03 to play in the Vision Festival.

Since then, often working as a leader, Mr. Grimes has played, toured, and / or recorded with many of today's music heroes, such as Rashied Ali, Marshall Allen, Fred Anderson, Marilyn Crispell, Ted Curson, Andrew Cyrille, Bill Dixon, Dave Douglas, Paul Dunmall, Andrew Lamb, David Murray, William Parker, Marc Ribot, and Cecil Taylor. Mr. Grimes has also held recent residencies at the Berklee College of Music, Hamilton College for the Arts, New England Conservatory, the University of Michigan, University of Gloucestershire at Cheltenham, and more; he has given a number of workshops and master classes on other major campuses, released several brilliant new recordings, made his professional debut on a second instrument (the violin) at the age of 7O, has now published the first volume of his poetry, Signs Along the Road, and has been creating illustrations to accompany his new recordings and publications. He has received many honors in recent years, including four Meet the Composer grants, a grant from the Acadia Foundation, and a grant from WKCR's "New York Music Alive" series. Mr. Grimes can be heard on 85 recordings on various labels, including Atlantic, Ayler Records, Blue Note, Columbia, ESP-Disk, ILK Music, Impulse!, JazzNewYork Productions, Pi Recordings, Porter Records, Prestige, Riverside, and Verve. Henry Grimes now lives and teaches in New York City.

More information:

Henry Grimes
photo by Nick Ruechel
On Henry Grimes's music:

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. — Chicago Sun-Times

Henry Grimes masterfully controls the sound, exploring the harmonies with the wisdom of a master painter. He enfolds the melodic designs with infinite variations of tact and sensibility. Yet the sense of drama of the narrative is always alive. At times he takes up the violin, an instrument he had studied as a child, and darting through the pieces are arrows of its sweet brightness. — Giuseppe Segala, All About Jazz / Italy

The return of Henry Grimes was remarkable because so many musicians fall by the wayside and are never heard from again. The rest is history: friends, students, a bass, practice. 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.

William Parker, Henry Grimes, Amiri Baraka, Bill Dixon
William Parker, Henry Grimes, Amiri Baraka, Bill Dixon
On Henry Grimes's poetry:

Signs Along the Road seems to read itself aloud inside one's head as one reads. It's a phenomenon that I don't recall ever happening to me with any other kind of poetry – the voice that plays itself out in my head is not that of Henry Grimes, nor is it mine, and perhaps it is not even fully a voice, but it does exist in some capacity. This sounds fanciful, but one could describe it as the voice of the poem itself, speaking independently of writer and reader but emerging only from the encounter between them. Such philosophical considerations arise from the conditions which it creates – it makes one think in this way. It forces one's experience to become enriched, with the gentlest and most studious of touches... Such poetry is incredibly honest, and incredibly generous; it is what is meant by being aware, awake, and alive. — David Grundy, Cambridge University (U.K.); Editor, Eartrip Magazine

Signs Along the Road is a selection of poems that Henry Grimes jotted down in hundreds of notebooks between 1978-2005, some of which took months, perhaps years, to fully complete. Poems such as "Ortherama the King" and "Adama and Pourquory" have their roots set in legend, religion, and history, suggesting that the poet spent much of his time studying ancient tracts or poring through dusty volumes in his public library. There is a sense of scholarship here, together with a love of language: how it reads, how it looks on the page, how it sounds when read out loud. Grimes's sense of rhythm was still strong during this seemingly fallow period in his life, only he was working with a different instrument, and the music he was composing and playing emerged as words. — Edwin Pouncey, The Wire

If you're looking for a quick read, a comfortable sofa of poetry, jump back! Don't touch this book. It's hot! Henry Grimes' poems bite. Henry Grimes' poems dig. Henry Grimes' poems whirl. Henry Grimes' poems twist. Henry's poetry takes work. If you are willing to fill in the blanks, drown in words, listen to an improvisation come true, take this book and read it. Henry's making wordmusic. Words and music mingle in Henry Grimes' poetry in a confluence of sonority. If you are brave, curious, ready to be seared, read these poems. — Carol Pearce Bjorlie, Bass World

NOTE: During his visit that September weekend in 2010, Henry Grimes dropped in on the weekly jam session of the Historic Colred Musicians Club.

Some publications related to this event:
September, 2010 - 2010