HENRY GRIMES / RASHIED ALI – Spirits Aloft

Porter

A commentator can only do so much in front of records like this, a 2009 concert recorded in Camden, New Jersey just six months prior Rashied Ali’s birth into eternity. Framed by two poems by Grimes, the performance is one of the most vivid, fulgent examples of meaningful head-to-head interaction that I’ve had the luck of hearing in a very long time. Utterly confident and inherently peaceful in their connection with a higher vibe, these extraordinary creators of sound waste no energy in surrounding the listener with combinations that glorify an idealistic instantaneousness as the fundamental principle for the generation of far-sighted dual counterpoints, in turn amplified by sturdily superior solos. The commanding tones of Grimes, utilizing violin for the harshest type of integrity and bass for melting advanced grooves and begrimed (pun intended) improvisational shards, made us think of George Foreman’s successful return to fighting in 1987, ten years from retirement (and, ironically, thirteen following a loss to someone with the same Muslim surname of this duo’s drumming entity). Class and strength remain unchanged after an absence that, hypothetically, should have been decisive. A rare specimen of percussionist able to sustain widespread stretches of solitary action without testing this reviewer’s tolerance, Ali’s blood-impelling style is exalted by a recording which highlights the bass drum and the “fluid” hues of the toms, often producing a sort of embryonic feel: call it “swimming in the amniotic liquid of pulse”. In essence he was an immense musician, no labels attached. It’s a real shame that we can’t hear more from this pair, which really seemed to be born in dreamland.

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