One event constitutes a miniature festival in its own right, as the resurrected New York bassist Henry Grimes returns to Chicago for a slew of performances. It's no surprise to find Grimes in town during the Festival: he spent the last several Labor Day weekends appearing in multiple contexts at the much-missed Velvet Lounge, the historic club operated by the equally lamented Fred Anderson until his death 15 months ago.
Grimes's colorful and episodic career would make a pretty good TV movie, and it did supply the stuff of various human-interest stories when he re-appeared, after a 35-year hiatus in, 2002. A pioneering avant-garde bassist, he recorded iconic albums with Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and Sonny Rollins before falling off the map in the mid-60s. Since returning to the scene, Grimes's unfettered approach to rhythm and even timbre have opened a window into the past for modern listeners, even as he has stretched his often mystifying solos (on violin as well as bass) into the present.
His performances this year are anchored by a peripatetic residency" with the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, the brainchild of violinist Reneé Baker. Baker, who effortlessly fuses her classical training with a striking rhythmic authority, has quietly risen to the top echelon of improvising string players, and her ambitious compositional agenda has populated several separate ensembles.
Baker will lead members of this latest project behind Grimes and the New Orleans tenor titan Kidd Jordanwhose screaming, throaty saxophone exhortations have been a staple of Jazz Festival after-sets for roughly two decadesat Brown Rice, the tiny storefront space at 4432 N. Kedzie, Thursday night starting at 9 PM.
Friday brings two performances from Grimes. The first, again with Baker's Modern Orchestra Project, takes place at 8 PM at DeFibrillator in Wicker Park (1136 N. Milwaukee Ave). Immediately after, Grimes will scoot north on Milwaukee Avenue to the Logan Square Arts Center (2810 N. Milwaukee), to play with a group headed up AACM sax stalwart Mwata Bowden. The bandwhich again adds Kidd Jordan, this time to a lineup featuring reedmen Douglas Ewart and Edward Wilkerson, as well as second bass man Tatsu Aoki and drummer Avreeayl Rashould re-create some of the manic freedom that packed the Velvet Lounge in previous years. The set is scheduled for 10:30 PM.
Saturday (Sep. 3) at 10 PM, Grimes rejoins Baker and company to perform with saxophonist David Boykin for the first night of Hereafterfest, a weekend series at Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park (up one flight at 1550 N. Milwaukee Avenue). And Sunday evening at 8 PM, the bassist and members of Mantra Blue Free Orchestraa separate jazz-and-strings outfit led by Bakerwill appear where he started the week, at Brown Rice.