Bassist Henry Grimes enjoys return to playing
Bassist Henry Grimes looks at the 35 years he was among the missing and recounts one heart-wrenching fact.
“You just lived day to day,” says the veteran progressive jazz musician who has worked with stars from Cecil Taylor to Joe Lovano. “There was just today; there was no yesterday.”
Grimes will perform Monday in Lawrenceville with sax player Ben Opie and deejay Edgar-Um in a show that will demonstrate his return to the music from which he disappeared in a 1967 trip to the West Coast.
Grimes is back playing in an era he considers “a very good one for jazz” and has a steady set of gigs and workshops lined up in the United States and Canada with musicians from guitarist Mark Ribot to percussionist Andrew Cyrille.
“There is a lot going on and a lot of musicians who are out there stretching me in a lot of different ways,” says the instrumentalist who has done his own form of musical stretching as well.
Grimes, 74, was part of the progressive movement in the ’60s, and had gone to California in 1967 to work with singers Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks. Traveling there from New York City and then around to gigs in his car did not do his bass any favors. He did not have money to have it repaired and eventually sold it for a small amount, beginning life as a custodial worker.
Suffering from a bipolar disorder, he disappeared from the music scene, and even was suspected to be dead. In 2002, however, a social worker and jazz fan found out who he was.
Grimes admits it was difficult losing touch with the musical lifestyle he had led.
“I started writing poetry then,” he says about his effort to keep in touch somehow with the arts. “I was just waiting to see what happens.”
After being “found” by the social worker, Grimes was given a new bass by jazz star William Parker. It was time to get back to work.
Grimes returned East and started working with the new era of jazz players as well as doing residencies at sites such as Boston’s Berklee School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Michigan.
He has returned to producing the harmonically and rhythmically radical music he was producing in the ’60s and even has added some poetry to his performances.
“It’s a very good thing,” he says about his return.
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Admission: $20, $16 in advance
Where: Thunderbird Cafe, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville
Details: 412- 682-0177