Perhaps the biggest jazz story in recent years is the unexpected reemergence of the great bassist Henry Grimes. A flexible and powerful musician, Grimes was a crucial fixture during the 60s, working with avant-gardists like Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, and Cecil Taylor as well as more daring mainstream players like Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, and Bill Barron. But he felt emotionally troubled and needed a change. He moved from New York to California in 1968, but work was scarce and he sold his bass because he couldn’t afford to have it repaired. Three decades later he’d all but vanished–some reference books said he was dead–but in 2002 a jazz fanatic from Athens, Georgia, discovered him working as a janitor and living in an SRO in LA. Bassist William Parker, one of Grimes’s most important acolytes, bought him a new bass; by the summer of 2003 he was back in New York and as busy as he had been during his heyday. His first album since his return, Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival (Ayler), recorded with reedist David Murray and drummer Hamid Drake, proves he’s still got it. He’s absorbed some lessons from Parker, which can be heard in his tightly coiled and fiercely rhythmic clusters of notes that sound almost like chords, but his solo work still reflects his keen melodic sensibility. He’s touring with alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, leader and charter member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra; for these gigs, Grimes’s first in Chicago since the 60s, they’ll be joined by tenor great Fred Anderson and drummer Avreeayl Ra. Fri 3/11 and Sat 3/12, 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15 in advance, $20 at the door, $10 students/seniors. See also Saturday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Abbot.