As of the beginning of 2016, master jazz musician HENRY GRIMES (acoustic bass, violin, poetry, illustrations) had played more than 615 concerts in 31 countries (including many festivals) since 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 (1949-52) and Juilliard (1952-54). As a youngster in the ’50’s and early ’60’s, he came up in the music playing and touring with Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson, Arnett Cobb, “Bullmoose” Jackson, “Little” Willie John, King Curtis, 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, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Sunny Murray, Sonny Rollins, 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 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 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, 2003 to play in the Vision Festival. Since then, often working as a leader, he has played, toured, and / or recorded with many of this era’s musical and literary heroes, such as Chris Abani, Rashied Ali, Geri Allen, Marshall Allen, Barry Altschul, Fred Anderson, Tatsu Aoki, Newman Taylor Baker, Billy Bang, Harrison Bankhead, Amiri Baraka, Joey Baron, Hamiet Bluiett, Dave Burrell, Roy Campbell Jr., Alex & Nels Cline, Cooper-Moore, Marilyn Crispell, Connie Crothers, Ted Curson, Andrew Cyrille, Thulani Davis, Toi Derricotte, Bill Dixon, Pierre Dorge, Hamid Drake, Paul Dunmall, Cornelius Eady, Kahil El’Zabar, Douglas Ewart, Bobby Few, Charles Gayle, Melvin Gibbs, Yoriyuki Harada, Craig Harris, Graham Haynes, Karma Mayet Johnson, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Andrew Lamb, Nathaniel Mackey, Maria Mitchell, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Elaine Mitchener, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Meredith Monk [recording only], Jemeel Moondoc, Jason Moran, David Murray, Sunny Murray, Amina Claudine Myers, Zim Ngqawana, Kresten Osgood, William Parker, HPrizm (High Priest, Kyle Austin), Odean Pope, Avreeayl Ra, Tomeka Reid, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Orphy Robinson, Brandon Ross, Lee Mixashawn Rozie, Mark Sanders, Rasul Siddik, Wadada Leo Smith, Warren Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Sekou Sundiata, Tani Tabbal, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Aldo Tambellini, Greg Tate, Cecil Taylor (reunion), Chad Taylor, John Tchicai, Pat Thomas, Henry Threadgill, Edwin Torres, Dwight Trible, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ed Wilkerson Jr., James Zollar, John Zorn, and too many others to list here. In the past few years, Henry has also held a number of residencies and offered workshops and master classes on major campuses, including: Berklee College of Music (Boston); Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts (upstate New York); CalArts, hosted by Wadada Leo Smith (Valencia, California); the Carlucci School, with Andrew Lamb and Newman Taylor Baker (Portugal); Hamilton College of Performing Arts, with Rashied Ali (upstate New York); Humber College (Toronto); JazzInstitut Darmstadt (Germany); Mills College, hosted by Roscoe Mitchell (Oakland, California); New England Conservatory (Boston, Massachusetts); Scuole Bruscio and Scuole Poschiavo (Switzerland); the University of Gloucestershire at Cheltenham (U.K.); University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; and several more. Henry can be heard on about a dozen new recordings, made his professional debut on a second instrument (the violin) at the age of 70 alongside Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Center, has seen the publication of the first volume of his poetry, “Signs Along the Road,” by a publisher in Cologne, and creates illustrations to accompany his new recordings and publications. He has received many honors in recent years, including four Meet the Composer grants. Mr. Grimes can be heard on 90+ 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. He is the subject of a new biography published in London, “Music to Silence to Music: A Biography of Henry Grimes” by Dr. Barbara Frenz, with a beautiful foreword by Sonny Rollins (http://tinyurl.com/h9f8mo4). And on July 7th, 2016, Henry received a Lifetime Achievement Award and played a full evening of concerts with groups of his own choosing in the Arts for Art / Vision Festival at Judson Memorial Church in New York City , where he had also played and recorded with Albert Ayler’s group back in the ’60s.He stopped performing in 2018, with the relentless progression of the effects of Parkinson’s disease causing severe disabilities. Henry Grimes died on April 15, 2020, at the age of 84 from complications of COVID-19. The date of his death and its cause were confirmed by his wife, Margaret Davis-Grimes, to the Jazz Foundation of America.
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