Henry Grimes, the legendary multi-instrumentalist and poet who worked alongside some of the biggest names in American jazz, has died, as WBGO reports. His wife Margaret Davis Grimes confirmed the news to the Jazz Foundation of America, according to reporter Nate Chinen. Grimes passed away from complications related to COVID-19; he was 84 years old.
Grimes’ decades-long career existed in two distinct phases. Its first iteration goes back to 1957, when he was a highly sought-after jazz bassist playing with some of the era’s biggest names. During this time Grimes worked with Sonny Rollins, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, and Cecil Taylor. In the ’60s, he began to delve into the avant-garde, playing alongisde the late McCoy Tyner, Albert Ayler, and many more.
But then, at the end of the ’60s, a trip to Los Angeles resulted in financial trouble for Grimes, causing him to have to pawn his instrument. Decades of inactivity would follow, during which he fell on hard times. It wasn’t until 2002, after he was tracked down by social worker Marshall Marrotte and was gifted a bass by William Parker, that Grimes began to play once more. He made a return to the stage in 2003, performing at the Vision Festival in New York City. He continued to play live and give workshops at colleges and universities throughout the 2010s.