Africana Studies music seriesA Visit with Henry Grimes
Master jazz musician (acoustic bass, violin) Henry Grimes comes to Berklee after having played more than 300 concerts in 23 countries (including many festivals) since May 2003, 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 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, and McCoy Tyner.
Sadly, a trip to the West Coast to work with Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks went awry, leaving Grimes in Los Angeles at the end of the '60s 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; after only a few weeks of ferocious woodshedding, Grimes emerged from his room to begin playing concerts around Los Angeles and shortly afterwards, made a triumphant return to New York City in May 2003 to play in the Vision Festival.
Since then, often working as a leader, he 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, Andrew Lamb, David Murray, William Parker, Marc Ribot, and Cecil Taylor. Grimes has also given a number of workshops and master classes on major campuses, released several new recordings, made his professional debut on a second instrument (the violin) at the age of 70, 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 and a grant from the Acadia Foundation. He can be heard on more than 80 recordings on various labels, including Atlantic, Ayler Records, Blue Note, Columbia, ESP-Disk, Impulse!, JazzNewYork Productions, Pi Recordings, Porter Records, Prestige, Riverside, and Verve. Grimes now lives and teaches in New York City.
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