Credit: Ron Scott photo

Henry Grimes, the revered bassist who played a role in expanding the jazz language in the 1950s, along with Albert Ayler, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor, recently celebrated his 80th birthday on the Upper East Side at Jan Hus Neighborhood Center.

His many musician friends came out to celebrate, giving him the opportunity to play in a variety of configurations throughout the evening. His varying accompanists included the 11-year-old drummer Kojo Roney and his father, the saxophonist Antoine Roney, pianist Connie Crothers, lyricist HPrizm (aka High Priest from Antipop Consortium), saxophonist Mixashawn, drummers Andrew Cyrille, Denardo Coleman and Warren Smith (a contributor to Max Roach’s M’Boom), singer Karma Mayet Johnson, poet Tyehimba Jess and guitarists Brandon Ross, Marc Ribot and Melvin Gibbs, among others.

“This is like a reunion. Some of these people I haven’t seen in 20 years. It takes a great person like Henry to bring out all of us to celebrate his birthday,” said Mixashawn.

The bassist eventually switched gears and played his second love, the violin. Over the years he has developed a distinct sound on both instruments. He began playing the violin at age 12 and didn’t start playing bass until high school.

Grimes, who was born in Philadelphia, became a musical explorer, which led him to the outer limits of jazz and becoming a father of the avant-garde movement. Early on he played with others in the movement, such as the trumpeter Don Cherry and saxophonists Steve Lacy and Archie Shepp. Since then, he has played and recorded with Rashied Ali, Marshall Allen, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Roscoe Mitchell and Wadada Leo Smith.

His birthday performance was a collaboration of improvised novellas that captured brief parts of his complicated life as a genius bassist.

He has performed in over 32 countries with over five books of his poetry published. “I am so happy and blessed to be playing the music I love with so many wonderful musicians,” said Grimes.

Nov. 21, the Bronx Music Heritage Center (1303 Louis Nine Blvd.) will present “Puerto Rico & Cuba: Poetry on Two Wings.” The music and poetry of 19th century Latin American revolutionaries will come alive. Actor and East Harlem community activist Sery Colon will be in attendance. Vocalist-guitarist Ani Cordero will sing the hymns of musical folk-heroes such as Victor Jara and Ali Primera.

Jara was a Chilean teacher, poet and political activist. He was one of the neo-folkloric musicians who established the Nueva Cancion Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement. His political activism was a death sentence under the Pinochet regime in 1973. The Venezuelan political activist Primera was known as the “El Cantor del Pueblo” (“the People’s Singer”).

Cordero’s latest album, “Recordar,” is a tribute to these men and other voices of dissent. The songs are her takes on some of Latin America’s classic protest anthems.

“They represent a period in Latin American and Caribbean history when the political climate was a bit difficult,” she said.

This event is free and begins at 7 p.m. For more information, visit

One could say pianist-composer James Hurt is flying under the radar, but he has a cult of devoted jazzheads who are present whether he’s acting as a leader or sideman. Although calling him a sideman isn’t accurate, he is more the active participate whose improvisational flow makes for the perfect mix.

Recently at the Cell (located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood), Hurt was the active leader, at times so intoxicated by the music that he stood up and played a la Thelonious Monk. His quintet of fueled engines featured tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, guitarist Marvin Sewell, drummer Eric McPherson and a special guest, the trombonist Dick Griffin.

“When playing with James anything can happen,” said Burton. “I like playing with guys with no restrictions.” Although some of these musicians had previously played together, this performance is their first outing together.

With such intuitive playing, one would never think there was only one brief meeting to discuss the musical concept as opposed to an all-out rehearsal. The set was nonstop. They travelled through straight-ahead terrain to Burton’s Coltrane-ish blues tones with McPherson’s underlining drumbeats, and the roar of Griffin’s trombone led into a foot-stomping all-out African dance. There were opening for Sewell’s guitar conversation with rhythmic notations. Hurt’s performances are adventurous excursions displaying his talents as a fierce pianist and composer who never denies his musicians open access to his creative process.

The South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and the pianist Larry Willis have been friends and playing together since their student days at the Manhattan School of Music. Although the two have individual reputations that precede them, together they are a dynamite duo not to be missed. Their recent engagement at the Jazz Standard was sold out. Fans acknowledge Masekela and Willis’ combined creativity is much more swinging and hipper than those “BAMS” and “BASHES” of Batman and Robin.

The skilled duo played standards such as “Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” “When You Are Down and Out” and a Miriam Makeba original with the distinct vocals of Masekela’s South African accent making it all the more enticing. The two exchanged riffs with drifting undertones on Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.”