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Even the most skeptical among us would have to admit that bassist Henry Grimes' reemergence on the scene after a decades-long absence is a great human-interest story. Sure, it's heartening-even heartwarming-but let's put it in perspective. In his mid-1960s prime, Grimes was no LaFaro or Mingus. He was, rather, a first-call sideman, a versatile team player adept at playing both inside and outside-then, as now, a valuable but not unique commodity. Thirty-odd years later, he's pretty much the same-which, I hasten to add, is plenty remarkable, given the Van Winkle-esque layoff.
On Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival (Ayler), Grimes is the titular leader of a trio that includes tenorist David Murray and drummer Hamid Drake. On tunes like the uptempo "Eighty Degrees" and the medium-tempo "Blues for Savanah," Grimes' percussive attack and rhythmic drive work in tandem with Drake to lift Murray to some pretty amazing heights. Drake is wonderful. He plays the rhythms in between the rhythms; his inner clock is steady, yet his manner of playing time is as liberated as his free-form work. Grimes' solos can be inchoate, but his rhythm section work is beyond reproach. The hype surrounding his return notwithstanding, this is a superb record.
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