CD REVIEW: Henry Grimes – The Tone of Wonder

CD REVIEW: Henry Grimes – The Tone of Wonder
(Uncool Edition #2. CD Review by Geoff Winston)

The Tone of Wonder is an extraordinary album. Totally absorbing, full immersion in these solo explorations by bassist/violinist Henry Grimes is the best way to appreciate its range, depth and inherent beauty.

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This studio recital, recorded at Lo Spazio, Posciavo, Switzerland in May 2013 when Grimes was the the uncool Artist in Residence, is recorded with great sensitivity and fidelity, so much so that it is one of the few occasions, usually reserved for analogue, when listeners can believe that the musician is in the room with them.

Grimes’s exhilaratingly intuitive and intensely thoughtful journey through two improvised pieces of 41 and 29 minutes, respectively, has Grimes soloing on acoustic bass with short interludes on his own violin (originally his first instrument before taking up the bass which he studied at Juilliard in the early 50s), and reflects something of the spirit of his own life journey which has seen his career revived and elevated since 2002 after a lengthy period of hibernation.

Every nuance is captured, from the deepest rolling resonances to the complex architectural layering that Grimes achieves, at times creating the impression that he might be playing two instruments simultaneously. So what is it we are hearing? It’s really Henry Grimes telling you everything he knows about music; it comes out of his love of music and his love of the instruments. As somebody, who sat in with me to listen said, “it’s not what I call jazz; it’s more like études, like studies.” Which is a most perceptive insight. It’s improvisation, but not jazz in the conventional sense.

What came across to me strongly was the subterranean presence of Bach and the majesty of his solo cello suites. There’s also something of the passion of Spanish guitar and a flicker of middle east phrasing, but primarily it is Grimes’s rich musical language, uncategorisable and highly personal, combined with his technical dexterity, which gives an insight to the spark that lights his untrammelled creativity.

It is a performance of pure honesty, as close as you’ll get to the creative wellspring, that makes The Tone of Wonder such a unique and special album – and also shows why Grimes at 80 is still as much in demand these days  as he was with Coltrane, Ayler, Rollins and Cecil Taylor in the 60s.

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4 replies »

  1. Glad to see this news and review. For more about this remarkable bass player's life and music, see 'Music to Silence to Music', a book about Henry Grimes that will be be published by Northway in October.

  2. Thank you, Henry. Your generous comment means a great deal. You'll also be interested to see that the Jazz Institute in Darmstadt has just picked up on the review and will be spreading the word. Their site is http://www.jazzinstitut.de, and they wrote:

    10. Juni 2015
    … what else …
    Geoff Winston hears a new recording by the bassist and violinist Henry Grimes ( London Jazz News).

    (The Jazzinstitut Darmstadt houses Europe’s largest public jazz archive.)

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