NEW YORK (AP) Stanley Crouch, controversial and influential critic, columnist and self-taught Renaissance writer who in fiction and non-fiction has been inspired by his knowledge and love of blues and jazz and his urge to cross the line, died Wednesday at age. 74.
His wife, Gloria Nixon-Crouch, told The Associated Press that he died in a New York hospice. He had been in poor health for the past few years after suffering a stroke.
Crouchs’ work has always been a blend of high art and street talk, the prose version of what he saw as the deep democracy of jazz. In a career spanning the 1960s, Crouch was a columnist for the Village Voice and the New York Daily News, guest on NPR and the Charlie Rose show, jazz drummer, founder of what became Jazz at Lincoln Center, and mentor scored by Wynton Marsalis. , a baseball and American folklore aficionado and the bane of Toni Morrison, Spike Lee and Amira Baraka among others.
He had a knack for going anywhere, whether it was to dine with then-vice-president Al Gore, chat with musicians at Village Vanguard, or make a special appearance at an awards ceremony. National Board of Review, when it accepted an award on behalf of Quentin Tarantino, who appreciated Crouchs’ praise for Pulp Fiction. He was also a favorite of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, his commentary appearing in Jazz “and The Civil War among other films.
Crouch was deeply immersed in the past and in some ways preferred to despise fusion and other more recent incarnations of jazz and identify with the term Negro rather than African American. A deep, voluminous voice man who once slapped the face of a critic who filmed his novel Dont the Moon Look Lonesome, he was equally adamant whether he was rhapsodic about Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker, disparaging the gangsta rap (“‘Birth of a Nation with a backbeat) or admiring Barack Obama (a rhythm and blues guy).
Crouch’s warm words were relished if only for the ferocity, if not the extreme, of his contempt. He called Lee a middle-class street nigger “and Morrison an” ideologically-punched “writer, producing corn liquor in the tub. He and Baraka despised each other so much that when the New York writer Robert Boynton called Baraka for an article on Crouch in 1995, the poet called Crouch an upside down and soinin person and hung up the phone.
Crouch has a virtually insatiable appetite for controversy, Boynton wrote.
Reviews of Crouchs have been collected in Notes of a Hanging Judge, The All-American Skin Game, and other books. He released the first episode of his Parker biography, Kansas City Lightning, in 2007. He had worked on a second volume, but couldn’t finish it due to his health. His honors included a Whiting Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize and the title of Jazz Master in 2019 by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has been a visiting professor at Columbia University and president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.
Crouch is survived by his wife, daughter and granddaughter.
Crouch was raised in Los Angeles by his mother, and from childhood he wanted to learn, read William Faulkner, Mark Twain, and other canonical writers, and learn to drummer. He was a civil rights activist in the 1960s who was radicalized by the Watts riots of 1965, but then turned against black nationalism. Crouch has become an heir to the intellectual tradition of fellow black writers like Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, advocating the spontaneity and inclusiveness of jazz as the finest qualities of this crazy quilt called America. In a 2011 Daily News column, he relished these affirmations, American moments of good times capable of transcending one-dimensional materialism.
It is the essence of jazz in all its styles and it is the continuing essence of Americana when experienced with its most powerful vitality, ”he wrote, up and down mixed. in a homogeneous liquidity of many flavors, all recognized for the light of their deeply human sources.