Hardbopjazz

RIP Stanley Crouch

83 posts in this topic

Thanks. I had been wondering why noone was posting quotes. I can see why now. 

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7 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

My two personal encounters with Crouch.

1) back in the mid-1980s, when I was at the Chicago Tribune, Stanley was a guest at a Lake Forest, Ill. writers colony, the Ragdale Foundation, working on his novel perhaps. We'd never met but one day he called me up at work to chat. In short order, no doubt knowing of my fondness for the AACM circle of musicians, he began to go off on Lester Bowie as a fraud -- this because among other things (and I think he'd written about this previously) when Lester played "Well You Needn't" he played, as many people did,  the simplified bridge that Miles popularized  rather than the more complex one that Monk wrote. I began to suspect that Stanley was telling me this with little or no prelude and in a great gush of enthusiasm because either he thought I might flat out agree with him that Lester was a fraud or that if I didn't contradict him, he could think that I agreed with him even if I didn't say so and then perhaps tell someone else that I did. So I told him right off that I thought Lester was a master musician, and added a few details. Stanley hung up the phone without another word, didn't even try to argue with me. And I wasn't being hostile about it.

 

I agree it's odd though he could have simply hung up because he didn't feel like challenging you to a fistfight.

But the thing that stands out in my mind is that, iconoclasts don't need anyone to agree with them. They just say what they are going to say. Beyond that its kind of foolish that if he knew of your fondness for the AACM circle, why would he think that he would get anything but a counterargument about Bowie? Did he really need your acquiescence in his opinion or could he have expected you to say "yeah, you're right. Quote me on that Stan."

Maybe he just called you to engage you about Lester because he had a different opinion and wanted to hear yours. And maybe he ended the conversation because his bagel was getting cold in the toaster oven.

There's no question Crouch had his issues - and lots of them.

 

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5 hours ago, soulpope said:

Reading through those comments, I kept thinking about Ellison's "battle in the bucket of crabs" (from INVISIBLE MAN). Ironic, given how much Crouch worshipped Ellison. But he could not see — more likely, IMO, chose to ignore/compartmentalize/rationalize — his own trollish tendencies.

Edited by Joe

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22 hours ago, Joe said:

I mean, it all depends on who you are and where you come from. My formal jazz education, such as it was, was anything but Kenton-centric. This was in the early 90's. My teacher — a good one, IMO — was always conscientious about placing the music in a sociopolitical context and foregrounding the Black men and women who made lasting aesthetic contributions.

I think the key word here is "institutional." As Everson points out early in his write-up, the living, breathing history of the music never really happened in institutions, at least not until the 70's.

Crouch was a complicated man who leaves a complicated legacy. And I agree: had he continued to pursue the same rhetorical strategies that brought him fame/infamy in his heyday in the era of social media, his legacy might be even more complicated.

 

4 hours ago, Fer Urbina said:

As a non-American living across the pond, I find the comments on Facebook extremely interesting. Given Crouch's homophobic writings (which I haven't read and take at face value given multiple sources) and threats and acts of physical violence, it is interesting to see who are willing to forgive/forget and why--I'm not being ironic, I find it fascinating that aesthetic agreement seems to carry so much weight. As a writer, he was too baroque for my taste, but I guess it doesn't help that the first thing I read of his were all his liner notes for Wynton Marsalis in one go (for a thing I did on Wynton).

F

PS: As for Iverson's article, for what it's worth his comment about Berklee ignoring Ellington for Kenton has been firmly rebutted on FB (it's a public post, so it can be read without an account:https://www.facebook.com/darcyjamesargue/posts/10164381949335105).

 

Thanks to you both. I've long been skeptical of just about anything Iverson claims, to the point that I basically avoid his writing. This Crouch obituary does nothing to change my mind.

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I’ve told this story before

On my first visit (one of only a few) to the Jazz Standard I think in 2009 to see Bobby Bradford with his group including David Murray, Marty Ehrlich, Mark Dresser & Andrew Cyrille, Stanley took one of the last seats sitting directly across from me at one of the small front tables on the left. I think he was there as he had a relationship with Murray and/or Bradford. I had never seen him before or since at any of the hundreds of shows I’ve attended in NYC I’ve the years which is very much not surprising. He had long since stopped listening to anything outside of what he deemed meaningful. As we know he spent decades demeaning music that he had stopped listening to and therefore had no idea of the new music being played since the early to mid 80’s.

As the band played he seemed more interested in his dinner (but who knows) but when Ehrlich & Dresser engages in what was pretty easily the most “out“ and by a margin the most exciting and engaging playing of the set - with all due respect to Bradford who played very well that night - I thought Stanley was gonna strain his neck turning to hear who was playing the most magnificent b-flat clarinet and double bass he had probably heard in 20 years. 
 

and although I was thinking of engaging with him after the set, I smartly decided to go on my way

 

my friends often encourage me not to speak poorly of the dead so I will now move on here as well....

 

 

Comin’ On, baby

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2 minutes ago, Steve Reynolds said:

 I think he was there as he had a relationship with Murray and/or Bradford.

He no doubt knew them from his prior life in LA. Same with Arthur Blythe. He was around there, then.

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Wonder if we'll ever get to hear the Black Music Infinity recordings? Or read Outlaws & Gladiators? 

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If Crouch had come of age as a public figure today instead of 40 years ago, we'd call him a troll or "shitposter".  (I'm chuckling imagining him creating memes.)

That's not all he was, but it's a pretty integral part of his career.

The call Larry K described upthread reminds me of a teenager prank call.

Edited by Guy Berger

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Reading about Larry's phone call with Crouch has me wondering if he was like one of my old high school buddies who would say crazy things just to start an argument. I remember one time, he walked into a group of women at a party at Smith College, a very very liberal school, and said, "I don't understand why they are trying to stop the baby seal hunt". For several hours after that, he engaged in a heated debate with an ever-growing circle of enraged young women, all of whom wanted to kill him.

When we left that party, he laughed for about a half hour.

Another time, there was a couple ringing doorbells advocating as Jehovah's Witnesses. He started asking them all kinds of questions about their beliefs. He kept them standing on his front doorstep for almost 2 hours. And when he closed the door and returned to watching TV with us, you would think he just went to a comedy club. He thought what he just did was the funniest thing ever.

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There are a lot of people who are of a contrarian nature. 

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6 hours ago, Dan Gould said:

I agree it's odd though he could have simply hung up because he didn't feel like challenging you to a fistfight.

But the thing that stands out in my mind is that, iconoclasts don't need anyone to agree with them. They just say what they are going to say. Beyond that its kind of foolish that if he knew of your fondness for the AACM circle, why would he think that he would get anything but a counterargument about Bowie? Did he really need your acquiescence in his opinion or could he have expected you to say "yeah, you're right. Quote me on that Stan."

Maybe he just called you to engage you about Lester because he had a different opinion and wanted to hear yours. And maybe he ended the conversation because his bagel was getting cold in the toaster oven.

There's no question Crouch had his issues - and lots of them.

 

The reason I had the suspicions I did was that Stanley was in such an impetus high gear from the first, spewing out what he did about Lester, that I felt he might be used to more or less rolling over people when he was in that groove, which seems to have been fairly common for him. Further, it seemed to me that in this wild rush of words he didn't need my agreement but merely my silence, which he then could either interpret or reshape as agreement.

P.S. about that impetuous high gear groove, it just occurred to me what might have been at the root of it  -- Stanley was simply nervous, anxious perhaps that I might try to cite chapter and verse as to why his ugly put down of Lester was mistaken, even stupid. That didn't occur to me until now because the idea of me/my opinions making anyone feel nervous seems absurd to me. But if Stanley was that committed to being the or a top dog in the realm, I was after all a published critic whose track record on this and that probably was known to him. I should add that if one is a longtime (some 60 years now) friend, as I am, of Chuck Nessa and Terry Martin, and even relatively gentle John Litweiier, one gets quite used to encountering rock-solid opinions from them that would and should daunt anyone, unless one already happens to agree with them. A long rich education, it's been.  And Sangrey is coming up hard on the far turn.

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Joel Fass has a nice remembrance of Crouch up on Facebook:

 

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no longer on FB, and wish I could read Matt's thread. 

certainly Crouch was an asshole but he is/was hard to avoid on some level if one engages seriously with this music.

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19 minutes ago, clifford_thornton said:

no longer on FB, and wish I could read Matt's thread. 

certainly Crouch was an asshole but he is/was hard to avoid on some level if one engages seriously with this music.

I am not connected to Shipp but there was no problem reading everything he and others wrote on his page.

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No matter how much a person may be an idiot during their life, unless the person has physically harmed you, I don’t see the necessity to say those kinds of things after they’re dead. For me, one or two “good riddances” is sufficient. 

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5 hours ago, Dan Gould said:

I am not connected to Shipp but there was no problem reading everything he and others wrote on his page.

I don’t think you can read it if you don’t have a Facebook account (certainly I wasn’t able to do so).

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3 hours ago, djcavanagh said:

I don’t think you can read it if you don’t have a Facebook account (certainly I wasn’t able to do so).

Well yeah that would make sense. :blush:

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1 hour ago, Dan Gould said:

Well yeah that would make sense. :blush:

You don't need a twitter account to read tweets though. I can see some Facebook posts but not these 

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Judging by the sequence of the above links, Matthew Shipp sure worked himself into a temper. :huh:

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I found Crouch's writing to be frequently overbearing, much like his public persona. During one Jazz Journalist Association he took a swing at president Howard Mandel, then there's the time he cold-cocked another writer in the side of the head while he was seated. My one encounter with him was during a JJA Awards Show, which he had bulldozed his way into being a part of it (with Mandel's blessing), even though he was not a member. He talked for a few minutes, then sat at the drums and gave a rather boring solo. Afterward, Francis Davis made fun of it when he took the microphone, but even better was comedian Al Lewis, who was a special guest that year. Lewis remarked, "I remember being on 52nd Street back in the 1940s and hearing Sid Catlett, now there was a real drummer!" The audience groaned and hooted in agreement. I always wonder if Crouch thought about taking a swing at either of them.

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