The Return of Henry Grimes

Here is a piece documenting the discovery and resurgence of bass player and loft veteran, Henry Grimes, from the new issue of Current Research in Jazz, an on-line journal published by former Jazz Loft Project archivist, Michael Fitzgerald, who is now an archivist with the libraries of the University of the District of Columbia.

In the summer of 2003 I flew into San Francisco, rented a car, packed a styrofoam cooler, and spent 2 weeks driving up and then back down the West Coast interviewing fifteen or twenty veterans of 821 Sixth Avenue.  With the help of Fitzgerald and others mentioned in this article, I picked up Henry Grimes at his hotel in downtown Los Angeles and we drove around town listening to cd’s from the initial transfers of Smith’s loft tapes.  Henry was recorded on a few of those reels.  I remember him telling me, “This sounds like one of those planned sessions.”  He told me that not all jam sessions were ad-hoc.  Many times somebody called around and organized a session, not unlike a poker game.  He’s been a good friend of the project ever since, and I included this quote from him in the book.  We hope to include some of his poetry on this blog in the future.  At this blog entry there is a photo of Henry from a JLP event in NYC in December.

Go to Henry’s site to gain access to his excellent recent recordings.  I also recommend his 1965 recording, “The Call,” with another loft veteran Perry Robinson on clarinet.  It is one of the hallmarks of “free jazz” from the period.  I also recommend “Out of the Afternoon” by the immortal loft veteran Roy Haynes, with Henry on bass, and the great loft veteran Roland Kirk on various horns, and Tommy Flanagan on piano.  This quartet of heavyweights was Roy’s working band at the time.  Are you kidding me?  Roy is the most undersung band leader in jazz history.  If you only buy one jazz album this year “Out of the Afternoon” would be a good choice.

-S.S.

1 Comment

  1. jeff caltabiano Said,

    June 17, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

    I remember seeing Henry Grimes play for the first time sitting in with the Bobby Bradford Mo’Tet on 5/3/03 outdoors at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Having read the story of his past and his recent rediscovery in the Signal To Noise and LA Times pieces, I was in awe to see him play again – I literally had goosebumps. If I recall there was a great quote in the LA Times article from Alex Cline about how strange it was to play with a ghost. Anyway, a few weeks later I was going out to lunch from my office on Spring Street – right near L.A.’s Skid Row – and walked by the man I now knew was Henry Grimes. What struck me is that in all likelihood I had walked by him before on these same streets, not far from the single room occupancy room he lived in, and of course never gave it a thought that this was the ‘lost’ jazz legend.

    This story also reminds me of the recent rediscovery of Giuseppi Logan who – similarly to Grimes – has struggled with mental illness and homelessness. Here’s more about his story: http://tinyurl.com/8fq4pq Having worked with the homeless for the past 6 years I’m really interested in this topic of jazz musicians who couldn’t make ends meet and end up on the streets. There’s unfortunately a number of talented jazz musicians who ended up destitute either because of drugs, mental illness, or a lack of work.