Since 2003, ’60s free-jazz bassist Henry Grimes has experienced a resurgence on the performance scene that has been touching and inspiring. His new two-CD set of solo improvisations emphasizes that remarkable comeback, which can now be considered complete. With more than two and a half hours of fairly continuous playing, Solo is a dramatic tour de force. Alternating between long passages on the bass and violin, Grimes plucks and bows with great clarity and imagination, and a seemingly endless supply of bold musical ideas.
Clearly, Grimes is the medicine man in residence, playing bass equal to any of his ’60s contemporaries and evoking fond memories of the late Leroy Jenkins on the fiddle. It’s the fearless confidence Grimes exudes on bass that is most impressive, and his stream-of-consciousness solo work puts him right up there in the pantheon of rare improvisers like his old boss Cecil Taylor. Grimes’ technical mastery is sometimes overshadowed by his amazing creativity, but his organic skill with string-driven-things should serve as a clinic for devotees.
There’s a lot of music to digest here and it would be difficult to absorb the entire collection in one sitting, but a brilliant thread of continuity runs through the performances and the end result is never contrived. Simply put, Grimes best expresses himself when playing bass or violin; his unencumbered process shows him gaining in all ways at the age of 70, and he’s a true model of self-realization through music.