Sunday, July 10, 2005

Henry Grimes Trio, Kongsberg July 8., 2005

So, how does one cope with the terrible events in London on Thursday? I suppose some would not have scrapped plans for a concert the day after, understandably, but I didn't.

On one of the hottest days so far this summer, I went to witness The Henry Grimes Trio play at Kongsberg's annual Jazz festival in a shack-like venue. I was sweatin', and could not figure out where to buy refreshments, so I just sat there waiting for about an hour amid an audience of mostly 50 + year-olds and a some of my own age. Just past 11pm, an announcer calls Henry Grimes, Hamid Drake and David Murray on stage.

Mr. Grimes' story doesn't need repetition. He looks a grandpa-like figure as he steps up to his (borrowed for the occasion) bass, wearing a green sweat band on his head and two large buttons on his t-shirt depicting his two compatriots, Darke and Murray.

Immediately, they break into the first of four songs. The sounds bounce between the close walls, and I'm pretty sure some of my fellow listeners got a bit of a shock. I'm amazed by the velocity of the piece. Murray blows his horn like only he can, shifting between melodic parts and bops'n'pops. He twists and turns on stage, and on one occasion, stands with his legs spread with his horn straight in front of him as if preparing to fire a gun into the audience. Drake floats all over his drum set without being excessive, providing a funky beat. He is terrific to watch as well as listen to, and he is probably one of the best drummers in the game. Mr. Grimes is at first the least impressive of the three, but gradually, as his left hand decides to keep up with his right, he starts to find his feet. After a ferocious starts they slow down a bit, and Murray takes out his bass clarinet. He lays down a deep melodic line, and eventually starts to play long notes backing Grimes up for a solo which he plays interchangeably with a bow and finger picking. The song ends.

The next tune starts with Murray, playing a simple melodic blues on his tenor. The piece is more traditional than the first, but they still toss in elements of "free" and improvised structures. Drake continues to bang and stroke. Fantastic. Grimes takes a walk on his bass. They seem equally comfortable with the two slower pieces that close the nearly 100 minute long set.

Although I looked forward to the gig, and especially witnessing David Murray for the first time, I was a bit skeptical of how the main attraction, Henry Grimes, would hold up. Given the time he has been away from jazz, coupled with his age, his playing was more than apt to keep up with Drake and Murray, two of the best jazz musicians in recent years. There was no weak link between them, and I will try to pick up their release on Ayler Records from last year.

At the start of the gig, I noticed Ken Vandermark and several of Norway's finest (Nielsen-Love, Haaker Flaaten) in the audience. A bit later, I turned around again, and they all had grins on their faces. Just like myself. Very enjoyable.

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