Henry Grimes and Rashied Ali - Spirits Aloft (Porter Records, 2010)


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This recoding documents a live meeting between two of the legends of the “new thing" free jazz movement of the 1960's, drummer Rashied Ali, who was best known as John Coltrane's last drummer, but was also a loft jazz club entrepreneur and label owner, along with being musical pioneer and longtime band leader. Henry Grimes, playing bass and violin here, played with everyone from Sonny Rollin to Alber Ayler back during the first phase of his career, then famously dropped out of music before staging a remarkably successful comeback in recent years. This album is bookended by two spoken word poems, “Moments" and “The Arch Stiarwells," which set the meditative and spiritual tone for the music within. The music appears to be completely improvised and works quite well, with Grimes deftly switching from plucked to bowed bass and adding swirls of violin to the action while Ali continually shifts the music. Ali was not a thunderous drummer, but his strength was in the subtle nature in which he would manipulate rhythm and flow of the music. “Rapid Transit" begins with a feature for Grimes violin, scraping and sawing against the percussive flow, the music builds to a high intensity duo, with the tension building nicely. Each man will occasionally strike out for an unaccompanied section, like Ali's fascinating solo interlude “Larger Astronomical Time" but the most exciting moments of the album come when they lock in together to explore the musical space around them, like on “Priordained" where Grimes alternating on plucked and bowed bass and Ali call forth a multitude of textures and hues. This was one of Ali's final recordings before passing away in 2009, and it is clear that he was a creative for right up until the end. Grimes continues to amaze, as his storybook comeback to the musical Universe continues unabated. Spirits Aloft—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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