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The Henry Grimes Trio - Sublime Communications Vol. II: Live at Edgefest

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Artist: The Henry Grimes Trio

Album: Sublime Communications Vol. II: Live at Edgefest

Label: self-released

Review date: Oct. 22, 2006

Before bassist Henry Grimes' triumphant return to music in 2002 after a 35-year absence, his only recording as a leader was The Call, waxed for ESP in 1965. Forty years later, Grimes is frontman to several regularly gigging groups, and this concert disc demonstrates that Grimes is playing better than he ever has before; such drastic improvements over the last three years must certainly stem, in large part, from musically nurturing associations like this one.

Sublime Communications Vol. II: Live at Edgefest, recorded last October on the closing night of that Ann Arbor festival, features veterans Andrew Lamb on reeds and Newman Taylor Baker in the drum chair. Excellence was a foregone conclusion. But it’s stunning to hear the collective vision nonetheless, helmed with skill and fire by an obviously jubilant Grimes. From word one, the disc crackles with an almost unbearable energy as Sir Henry roars in with speed, power and precision; he’s almost “shredding,” so to speak, combining the effortless tonal range of a Derek Bailey with the viceralgia and wide timbral pallet of Sonny Sharrock. Of modern bassists, Paul Rogers is the closest comparison, but Grimes puts forth even more energy. His attack changes from moment to moment, lightning-fast shifts in rhythm fostering the illusion of two bassists in dialogue.

His bandmates are no less impressive and, thankfully, completely sensitive to Grimes' vigorous new approach. Baker knows when to lay back, supporting the leader's exhortations with the most graceful slithers, brush strokes and sizzles, matching every detail, down to his strings slapping the fretboard. When Lamb finally enters, breathing a slowly repeated F on his saxophone, it's with a most exalted restraint. That doesn’t last, of course, and before long he’s in the modal fray, exploring a Japanese scale as Grimes and Baker emote along side and underneath as intensity builds to fever pitch.

And that's only the first 10 minutes or so of a 35-minute improvisation. The disc's second improv session is more wistful and pensive, shrouding the celebration just below the surface. When Lamb’s supple flute is eventually joined by a vaguely Latin accompaniment from Grimes and Baker, any sobriety is quelled by the joy of spontaneity. This time, it is Grimes who listens, patiently providing a rhythmic backdrop for Lamb’s razor-sharp explorations. That is, until it is time for another Grimes solo (it is his album, after all). This time through, the master tends to stay inside and around Baker’s steady but fluid beat.

The disc is full of such interplay, and why one of the jazz labels busy reissuing back catalog didn't snap this up is beyond me. This session is only obtainable from Grimes’ official website: www.henrygrimes.com.

By Marc Medwin

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